Onscreen snow is falling, little children are wearing wooly jumpers and talking with wooly English accents, a seemingly dastardly villain is learning to be nice… Could it be any other time of the year than Christmas? For all it’s incisiveness and originality, Hugo, Martin Scorcese’s first family flick, is a classic Christmas caper that would make the little kid from the John Lewis advert orgasm with joy. There will undoubtedly be a few ‘Bah Humbug’s from adults who are subjected to the occasional lame joke and the infrequent strained acting skills of Junior Butterfield and Junior Moretz, but, all things considered, this is a remarkably well worked family film from the man who brought us Goodfellas and Taxi Driver.
Asa Butterfield plays the Travis Bickle character, a little boy, living alone who develops a dangerous obsession. Luckily this obsession is for fixing broken things (could there be a symbolic meaning to that?) like the automaton that his Dad, played by Jude Law (yet another child? Jeez, slow down Jude…), left him before perishing in an unexplained fire. As Hugo tries to fix the automaton an adventure unfurls around him that plunges us deep into inter-wars Paris and, particularly significantly, the world of early cinema.
The stellar cast are scattered about in the film so don’t worry if you haven’t seen anything of Emily Mortimer and we’re 90 minutes in. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the villainous (or is he?) station inspector, determined to throw orphaned Hugo into the clink. It’s a role fleshed out with panache rather than subtlety but he does get all the best lines, even if they’re hard to hear over the most bizarre accent recorded this year. It’s a weird hybrid of Cockney and Italian American so we’ll assume that Marty thought it was a good idea in pre-production. (Sir) Ben Kingsley plays another vital role as the mysterious, cantankerous (or is he?) owner of the station’s toy-shop. I don’t want to spoil the mystery for you so I shan’t say any more, but it’s good to see Ben Kingsley atoning for subjecting us all to Lucky Number Slevin.
All round Hugo is a roaring success. There were kids in front of me in the screening who were obviously bored but they were about 4 years old so who cares? Hugo is a magical delight for children and the adults taking them and whilst the child actors could do with refining their performances a tad (Asa Butterfield does make a big step up from his God-awful turn in The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas) the deliciously elaborate construction of the entire piece more than makes up for it. The opening tracking shot into the Gare Montparnasse is sumptuous and a perfect illustration of why Hugo is both a wonderful Christmas film for the family and a wonderful film. Full stop.
Beautifully rendered, Hugo is constructed with a precision that would’ve drawn gasps of wonder from George Melies himself. Spellbinding.
|Starring:||Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and a host of unknowns like Jude Law.|
|Certificate:||U (Adults must be accompanied by a child)|
|Running Time:||A solid couple of hours...|