Review: Hugo

At this point in my movie-watching career, I rarely see the PG pictures. I don’t have little siblings to take, Pixar finally missed the mark this year with Cars 2 (I’m shocked), and I’m not one of those who love animation. But when Martin Scorsese directs a children’s movie and people start throwing around the word “masterpiece,” I knew I had to see it.

The trailer is much like the first hour of Hugo itself. You can’t even really deduce what the movie about. Visually, it is stunning. It is clearly the work of an experienced director–you don’t see a lot of children’s movies that look like this.

The plot emerges eventually, compelling and smart. I wish it would have shaped the film earlier, but perhaps Scorsese was more interested in wowing his audience with images. That much, he does accomplish.

At its core, the film is derivative. It makes countless references to great works of literature and then introduces a lot of historically accurate information about the earliest years of film. Even its children protagonists, Hugo and Isabelle, don’t seem that far off from the children heroes in movies that preceded Hugo. Emma Watson could have easily stood in the role of Isabelle ten years ago and not changed a thing from her Hermione performance.

As far as children’s movies go, Hugo is a good one. I hope it becomes something of a classic so that in fifteen years, kids watch it with a fondness of childhood the way I watch The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

In judging it against all of the other movies of 2011, Hugo is up there. It’s not as smart as Moneyball, it’s not as touching as Super 8, and it is certainly not as in your face The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has its merit though (even Oscar merit), and it’s a real triumph for Scorsese. This movie is certainly better that his Shutter Island.

It just goes to show that PG-13 doesn’t guarantee a good movie.

Verdict: B+

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