The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Hugo | Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Hugo | Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen | Review

Wow, you’d think from the previews that Hugo was about a boy and his robot, or rather, automaton, living together in the magical clock towers of a Paris train station in the 1930’s.  No doubt you’d already know that it is the long-awaited Martin Scorsese Hi-Def 3-D project that was rumored to be SOMETHING BIG.

The rumors are true, at least visually.  The film is a banquet of color and style and 3-D that actually astonishes with its depth of sumptuous, magical layers.  It’s the story, adapted from Brian Selznick’s New York Times best-selling book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

It’s the story that pays the price for the many effects.

Orphaned Hugo (Asa Butterfield) joins his cranky, booze-soaked uncle Claude Ray Winstone) in the clock towers of a Paris train station, slipping effortlessly among the giant mechanisms with a swift and skillful deftness that lets him remain unnoticed by the ill-tempered, lame-legged station manager (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his fierce Doberman.

Hugo’s late clockmaker father (Jude Law) created an automaton (a silver, lattice-work humanoid head and body) keeping his progress in a notebook before a tragic fire claimed his life.  These two items become Hugo’s only possessions now that he’s the mouse in a very large version of Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hugo steals food, observes everyday life in the station, and continues his father’s quest for the heart-shaped key that will make his beloved automaton work.  A tiny side plot reveals that the mean station manager has a soft spot for the flower lady Lisette (Emily Mortimer) and so must be at least somewhat human.

In the course of events, Hugo crosses a cranky toy seller Georges (Ben Kingsley) who confiscates Hugo’s notebook.  Georges turns out to be the guardian of Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) a young girl whom Hugo befriends in an effort to retrieve the precious pages.

From there the plot launches into sort of a detective story where the two youngsters discover the identity of “Papa Georges” with the help of author and film historian Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg).  The three then manage to
uncover a long lost world of imaginative pioneering cinema, hand-painted color, and the limitless creativity involved in the early work of film director Georges Méliès.

Images are dazzling, elegant, and some even merit the literal meaning of fantastic as the film detours sharply into that mesmerizing universe relegating Hugo’s story as simply a means to get there.  There are tiny homages to silent era giants Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd.  Hugo himself hangs from a giant clock arm, an easily recognizable image in itself.

Child actors Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz are as enchanting as they are required to be, but so not share any particular chemistry.  Sir Ben Kingsley’s Georges is a crab most of the time though always formidable.  Sacha Baron Cohen is a dark version of a Keystone cop, able to make even a disability unsympathetic.  All take a backseat to a carload of special effects, enough to warrant top billing here.

Director Martin Scorsese scores with the look of the film, less so with the overly long story, necessary to fit in all of the effects, shapes, camera shots and gear movements.  The result is an uneven project: a spectacular view sprinkled with droplets of tedium.  Characters seem like they are the servants of the effects, pieces put into place to make the game board work.  For some, this will be enough.  Others will hold out for the full package and hope future efforts, Scorsese or not, will be able to blend the two more seamlessly.

Special effects = 5.  Story = 3.  Average score:

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