Martin Scorsese is responsible for several of modern cinema's greatest masterpieces. He's an exquisite filmmaker, one with an uncanny eye for drama, suspense and unearthing raw emotion. Inexplicably, he's also responsible for the children's movie Hugo, one of the most boring and pointless movies of the year.
Hugo, based on the novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", is about an orphaned kid who lives in the skunk works of a Paris train station, keeping the building's clocks in tune while avoiding the watchful eye of the station inspector. He befriends a young girl named Isabelle, who is the goddaughter of a mysterious toymaker with a hidden secret, hence the "mysterious" part. There's more to the plot than that, but Dreadfully Dull Plot Point #1 is just as uninteresting as Dreadfully Dull Plot Point #2, and so forth.
As frustrating as it is that this well-reviewed children's tale - which lacks wonder for children and adventure for adults - it's more hair-pulling to think that Scorsese wasted a year of his life filming and making this wasted bit of celluloid when he could have been contributing something of value, say a gangster movie or at least something that could warrant some Oscar attention. The problem is not that he made a bad movie; the problem is that he made a bad movie while he could have been making something entirely different, something actually worth watching.
Hugo is not worth watching. It contributes nothing.
Visually, the movie is semi-impressive. The 3D is okay, though as with any other 3D movie the extra dimension doesn't add any considerable value to the overall experience (a tighter story and interesting plot points would have, however). The movie was clearly made for 3D, however, Scorsese having abandoned his typical rough-but-beautiful style for glossy and slightly surreal, an appearance that can't possibly look great in only 2D. For what it's worth, Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson handle the camera well, but that's not surprising.
Visuals aside, though, the movie can't overcome the fact that it is slow, plodding and incredibly un-incredible. Clocking in at just over two hours, Hugo feels twice as long as any of Scorsese's three-hour productions, each scene drawn out in an agonizing fashion. Scorsese seems to have become so adrift among his story that he lost all sense of pacing.
Hugo is receiving mixed-to-strong reviews. Which is simply a head-scratcher. There's no way a child could find this slog of celluloid entertaining, the movie lacking real wonder aside from the fact the main character (played well by Asa Butterfield) secretly lives in a train station. As an adult, the movie offers nothing of substance other than a few cute moments here and there between the story's secondary characters. It's a movie without purpose, and undeserving of the praise it has received.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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