Being the trend setter that I am, last year sometime I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick well before I had heard talk of a movie to be made based on the book, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese, simply titled Hugo. After I, my oldest son and then my wife (only after she heard the movie was coming out...I suppose she doesn't realize how ahead of the curve her husband is) read it and enjoyed it, we decided to head out on Tuesday night to see it in the theater.
Because I had the somewhat unique perspective of having read the book and having a child whom also read the book prior to seeing the movie, I figured it might be beneficial to my readers if I write a review. So here's the Transformer Generation Dad take on the film Hugo.
The Plus Side: You may go to the theater expecting a children's movie, but Hugo is a real movie. Real in that it begins, progresses and ends with a purpose and that purpose has nothing to do with getting cheap laughs or selling film-related merchandise. The story works towards a meaning and the characters interact in believable way that develop the plot. There is very little, if any, gratuitous humor or plot gimmicks. Sure, the occasional funny moment is thrown in as is the occasional sweeping shot of the train station or the cityscape of Paris (the 3D is worth it), but it is always done with the story in mind. An image set before you early in the picture is remembered differently after a moment of poignant dialogue. A character's past is revealed in a moment requiring no narration. The story line (faithful to the book) begins in one place and takes you in a completely different direction by the end. The real story behind the tale of Hugo isn't quite what it was perceived to be at the start, yet the audience's arrival at its conclusion does not feel forced. You don't end up sitting there saying, "Wait, did I miss something?" By the end of the film, you feel satisfied with the journey you've taken.
The Down Side: You may go to the theater expecting a children's movie, but Hugo is a real movie. My sons are in second and third grade. My third grader read the book and upon walking out I asked him what he thought of the movie. "It was good," he said with the practicality of grown man without feeling any need to elaborate on his comment. I half expected he would suggest we get some coffee afterward.
My second grader, on the other hand, while a perfectly good reader for his grade level, is a bit short of possessing the confidence to pick up the very thick book (it's about as thick as a Bible, but mostly pictures) that his brother so eagerly read. He sat through the first half of the film perfectly then casually took off his 3D glasses and respectfully asked if we could leave.
My two sons' varying levels of enjoyment of the movie is something important for parents to know prior to going to see Hugo. The trailers remind one of The Polar Express in a way, a world filled with magic and wonder. Make no mistake, the cinematography is wonderful, but this is no film filled with musical numbers and comic relief to keep the wee kiddies in their seats. While I would not call it slow, true appreciation of the movie requires one sit still for a shade over two hours and pay attention to the screen.
The Wrap Up & TGD Rating: Overall, this film is a winner. It's insightful, beautiful and ultimately uplifting. Adults will love it, talk about it and even be inspired by its message. Kids who can watch a real movie will love it. Even slightly younger kids will like it, especially during portions. But be wary of the age of the children you might take with you. Taking a child who knows little but movies like Hop or The Chipmunks my very well impede the enjoyment of the adults who brought them as well as the adults sitting around them.
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