Martin Scorsese goes to town (Paris) with CGI effects and 3-D and the fantasy story from Brian Selznick’s book about Parisian orphan Hugo Cabret. Asa Butterfield is Hugo, maintaining the clocks in a train depot in 1930. Lonely, brilliant, and cute, he wins the friendship of a girl (delightful Clöe Grace Moretz) and the enmity of a scowling station cop (Sacha Baron Cohen, who lumbers). The story is rather skimpy for the machine of magical memory that Scorsese piles onto it, and the 3-D is a mixed blessing. But the story launches into cine-retro heaven when he salutes George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), the silent-movie pioneer of kitschy fantasy. The effusion of clips, studio sets, and vintage tunes is a hymn to movie bliss, although Scorsese’s core sensibility as an artist is not really in the Méliès line. This is a personal work but also commercially driven (even bloated), and the tension of that is fascinating. 2011.

3.0 stars

— David Elliott

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