Review: Hugo (2011)

A film about the wonder of film that isn’t as wondrous as it likes to think!

Screenplay By: John Logan
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Last year, and into 2012, cinephiles fell in love with Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, Hugo. Watching the film I can see why it was such a hit with many pockets within the cinephile community. It is a film that pays homage to the early days of cinema and also displays loving emotions towards cinema in general. It’s also an effort from Martin Scorsese, a director revered by most cinephiles. The casual audiences didn’t flock to see Hugo, but the cinephiles did and for the most part they loved the adventures of a small kid in a train station.

I’m not here to burst the bubble on Hugo, or to be a contrarian. If you are looking for someone to despise Hugo and be one hundred percent on the opposite side of cinephilia when it comes to the films quality then by all means go and read James Blake Ewing’s well written review. I fall somewhere in the middle, I picked out bits and pieces of Hugo to love, but I was less than impressed by the film as a whole. The problem with Hugo is that the film isn’t a whole work, it is two very different films trying to masquerade as one whole film.

There really isn’t any worst part to Hugo, it’s not a movie that has any truly bad parts. However, of the two films presented in Hugo one is definitely lesser than the other. The parts involving the station inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, are occasionally funny. I laughed at Max, his dog, and found some of the actions of Mr. Cohen to be quite funny. All the same I didn’t laugh at every bit of slapstick humor and in the end I asked myself what all the slapstick of the inspector had to do with the rest of the film? The answer is not very much, although Mr. Scorsese does attempt to connect the two parts of Hugo they never are more than feebly connected.

The second part of Hugo is the better of the two. However, watching Hugo Cabret and Isabelle discover that Papa Georges is actually Georges Méliès isn’t as magical as the film would like to believe it is. The reason for this is that Hugo barely dips its toe into showing a reverence for early film. The moments when the kids are told about the wonder of film are magical. But, those moments are tiny, and are eventually overtaken by the slapstick elements of the film. Hugo is a film that wants to put forth the notion of loving film and preserving film, but it isn’t willing to fully commit to that idea. The wonder and love for film is present in Hugo. But it is such a tiny aspect of the film that I wonder why people ever ascribed such deep meaning to it?

I liked Hugo, it’s two very disparate parts were both well done. The film is ultimately shallow and bereft of the prolonged deepness that Mr. Scorsese is striving for in the film. The elements were in place for Hugo to be an all time great film, but those elements are pawed at instead of truly explored. Too much slapstick and not enough wonder, Hugo is a cute and charming movie that ends up a wasted opportunity to truly convey the wonder of film history.




5 responses to “Review: Hugo (2011)

  1. I liked this film a lot. I had it as my second best film of 2011. The parts you mentioned with Cohen were actually the only things I would point to as not belonging in the movie. Had they been removed I feel it would have improved the film just a little bit.

  2. The Cohen parts do feel like they belong in a different movie. You are definitely not alone in loving the movie, if anything I am in the vast minority for not absolutely loving it.

  3. I thought hugo was beautifully done. If you liked it then look for “The Love Guide” coming out the 19th, if you liked Hugo I think you’ll like it.

  4. Thanks for the feedback Jen, I’ll have to keep my eyes open for that film.

  5. Pingback: Internet challenge: Top 10 Movie Directors « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

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