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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Hugo | Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Sasha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley | Review

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5_Chicks_Small Judy Thorburn

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Far removed from his adult themed dramas of the mean streets, Academy Award winning master filmmaker Martin Scorcese's first 3D family movie for children and grown up kids alike is a visual marvel, a beautifully crafted masterpiece in which he displays his passion for movies and the magic it delivers to audiences.

John Logan's script, adapted from Brian Selznick's graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Chavet,  is set in Paris, circa the 1930's and tells the story of a young boy named Hugo Cabret (a superb, Asa Butterfield,“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”) who is left orphaned after his watchmaker father (Jude Law) is killed in a fire. Under the threat of being taken to an orphanage, Hugo is taken by his drunken uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) to live within the innards of the centrally located clock at a Parisian train station where he takes over the job of keeping the clock in working order.  There he is forced to fend for himself and steal food and other items from vendors while keeping one step ahead of the mean spirited, Station Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen) who wears a brace on his left leg, and enjoys rounding up orphans with the help of his loyal Doberman.

Hugo's most prized possession is a broken mechanical man, a silver automaton, that his father found   discarded in a museum and was in the process of fixing before he died.  When not keeping the main station clock in tick tock order, Hugo is obsessed with finding the missing piece, a heart shaped key, that will start up the automaton and hopefully deliver a message from his beloved dad.

In an effort to find and steal the the part, Hugo comes face to face with the owner of a toy store, a cantankerous elderly man named Georges (Sir Ben Kingsley) who confiscates Hugo's notebook. Georges' god-daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kick Ass, Let Me In) soon enters the picture and upon befriending Hugo joins him on an adventure that not only leads to the key that will start up the automaton but will unlock a secret about Georges past and his connection to the mechanical man.  Cast as Mama Jeanne, Melies' wife is Helen McCrory.

The focus is on Hugo and George, but along with Hugo's nemesis,  we are introduced to a few other sideline characters that inhabit the train station. There is portly Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths), whose flirtations with Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour) are obstructed by her jealous lap dog;  Lisette (Emily Mortimer), the flower girl that attracts the attentive eye and heart of Station Inspector,  and kindly bookseller Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee, cast against type).

Scorsese, always the brilliant storyteller, meticulously blends fantasy with fact, paying homage to silent screen icons Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and incorporating the true story of legendary French director George Melies, a magician turned pioneer in films.  He built the first movie studio in 1896 and directed the first sci-fi film in 1902 called a “Trip to the Moon” before he hit hard times as the result of the first World War.

Melies was a visionary who brought his dreams to life in the most magical of ways.  He is long gone, but the legacy he left continues with filmmakers like Scorcese, whose create genius reaches another level with this multi layered, immersive story.  The mix of live action and truly seamless CGI produced a stunning realism which does not take the viewer out of the story, but rather places them smack in the heart of it. Beautifully told and bathed in eye dazzling shades of colors, Hugo is a spectacular work of art. “Papa” George would be proud!

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