The Martin Scorsese kiddie adventure that won five Oscars hits high-definition, but is it worth all the hype....?
Paramount / 126 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG / Street Date: February 28, 2012
The rampant, almost euphoric critical reaction to Martin Scorsese's Hugo remains one of the most head-scratching cinematic cultural paradigms of 2011. Film writers lined up around the block to offer accolades for this Martin Scorsese film, his first 'family' entertainment - and made in 3D! - and the most breathlessly acclaimed living moviemaker of our age racked up not only a National Board of Review win, but eleven Oscar nominations and some of the nicest filmic compliments of the calendar year.
I'm sure it rings as being contrarian and snippy, but upon revisiting Hugo on Blu-ray, I echo my faint refrain that I don't get it. I experienced Hugo in 3D in cinemas last fall because colleagues of mine were rapturous about its exploitation of the format: Multiple former classmates of mine from film school heralded it as the greatest use of 3D to date. But even though I only revisited the movie in 2D (DVDFile's 3D writer will have a go at it later this week), the hollowness of the film continued to prevent me from falling into its movie-history-laden construction.
The film's concept boils down to a precocious young boy (Asa Butterfield), who lives secretly among the attics of a Paris train station, tending to all of said institution's clocks. A girl shows up (Chloe Grace Moretz) to help him with the adventure, and there's a bumbling stationmaster (Sacha Baron Cohen) who wants the kid's tomfoolery to come to an end, and as their Nancy Drew mystery of a tale comes to its final couple reels, we learn that the great silent film legend Georges Melies just might hold a secret that could liberate every character in the movie to bold new horizons.
Hugo is, in all ways, a capably-made motion picture. The vast majority of its Oscar nominations are exceptionally merited, especially in terms of production design, costumes, and even Thelma Schoonmaker's reliably kinetic editing. But I mean no offense to Marty specifically when I say that Hugo plays like a Disney Channel and TCM Documentary hybrid: It ebbs and flows with narrative fluidity, but its exposition is clunky, and the film's tone is all over the place (Baron Cohen was a mistake). Paramount wants us to love the movie - it dropped some serious coin getting this thing in the can - but Hugo plays on Blu-ray like a Scorsese lark, a movie with ideas aplenty, but with no discernible heart, no oomph.