Sunday, 4 March 2012

Hugo Review

The first thing you need to know about this film is that the marketing for it is very deceptive.  All of the marketing efforts and clips from the Academy Awards made it out to be some fantasy where magic would allow for a robotic boy to come alive or something similar.  None of that is true of this movie.  Instead, it becomes a much more plausible story of finding your purpose and getting a second chance.  While there are a lot of elements to the film that are a bit out there and unrealistic, the basics of it stay grounded in reality much more than I had expected them to be.  When I get thrown a curveball like this, I find it a bit more difficult to get into a film and, thus, have a bit more difficulty enjoying it.

That's not to say that I did not enjoy Hugo.  I did.  It was just harder to get into than I thought it would be.  The visuals for this movie are absolutely fantastic and, even if it was not the story I was expecting, it was still a very good and solid tale.  Usually, I do not like movies where the main hero is a child.  They often come across as too brave in the situation for it to be realistic (I call it the Jurassic Park Effect).  However, in Hugo, this is mitigated somewhat.  While he is brave and stands up to Melies somewhat, there is an air of fear about him when it comes to the Station Inspector that makes him seem much more human and realistic.  Overall, he does have to rely on the help of others to fulfill his mission.  When you do that with a child hero, it becomes an easier story to accept.

Acting wise, Hugo is very strong too.  There are very good performances all around.  You expect that from someone like Ben Kingsley or Emily Mortimer or Christopher Lee.  The pleasant surprise was with Sacha Baron Cohen.  I really cannot stand the man and most of what he does offends me; not because of what he does but why it is justified for him and only him to do it.  But I won't get into that.  As the Station Inspector, he performs very well.

So, while this is a very good movie, I don't think it deserved all of the accolades that it got.  Yes, costumes and visual effects were superior to a lot of what's out there.  But I think Academy Award nominations for Picture, Directing and Screenplay were based more on the fact that it deals a lot with movie nostalgia.  If you watched this year's Academy Awards you will have noticed that there was a lot of "back in the day when my dad used to take me to the movies and it was magical."  Well, Hugo is ripe with that theme.  Hollywood, Vaudeville, pre-War Paris, etc.  The Academy has a tendency to really favour films that evoke those emotions.  (I think Scorsese knows this and thought it might be a ticket to another Oscar.  But that's my own speculation.)

But, if you read this web log regularly, you will notice that I often give See recommendations to movies that would never even get considered by the Academy.  This is no exception.  See it.  Even though it may not be what you expect, you should still come away with that warm, happy feeling at the end at that, ultimately, is the point.  One final piece of advice though.  You may not want to make it a "lazy weekend afternoon film" because it moves quite slowly in spots.

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