Hugo: It’s about, um, well…

Posted: March 2, 2012 in Reviews: Movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ah, Hugo! What’s it about, you ask? Well, let me tell you. It’s about a guy, right, who makes movies around the turn of the century. Well, no, not exactly. You see, it’s actually about this little girl – well, no, I think it’s a boy, but not completely sure. He winds clocks and makes this robot, see? …well not exactly a robot, it’s called an automaton…ok, ok. That’s not exactly what it’s about, so much as a key part of the story line. It’s really about a friendship between a little boy and a shop owner. Well, not exactly a friendship so much as a rivalry. No, actually, let’s see here – it’s about a homeless kid and his alcoholic, abusive uncle…

Look, I’ll stop there. The point I suppose I’m making here is the movie covers a lot of ground in terms of story elements. A seemingly randomized hodge-podge of story elements. Mr. Scorsese did achieve originality here, and managed to cobble together a film that tells a compelling story – but unfortunately not one I will be able to relate here. Suffice it to say, it’s sort of an adventure-drama-family flick-period piece-live action-CGI-holiday-secular-fictional-quasi nonfiction-tragedy-romance-Indiana Jones meets Little Orphan Annie. Yeah, it’s also trying to cover alot of ground in terms of categories.

So, rather than try to categorize or describe the film, let’s switch gears here and discuss the merits of the film. Ben Kingsley delivers another strong performance, although you will find the pancake makeup he wears to look young in the ‘flashback’ scenes a little creepy. It harkens back to the Crypt Keeper, if the cracks in his rotting flesh were covered with a thick plasticy-looking substance. The kid, who is apparently the main character, just barely meets minimum skill requirements for hollywood acting, though. We have a severe shortage of child actors who actually know how to shed a tear when ‘crying’ in a scene. Aren’t kids supposed to be experts at fake crying? Then why can’t they do it when they are on camera? Sorry, delivering your lines with a straight face ain’t enough, kid. The robot is kind of cool too, although I was really hoping for it to take more of a role in the story line. You know, maybe start to get up and help he kid out with some chores or something. All it did was sit there and draw some stupid picture.

And that leads us to the sub-plot, which somewhere around mid-film turns into the main plot: Mr. Shopkeeper and his hidden past as a pioneering filmmaker. Again, well constructed story telling here, but I’m starting to think really good editors can turn a meandering, senile director’s work into a cohesive story in post-production. It seems like this story came out of nowhere to be the whole point of the film in the end. Upon reflection, I find myself wondering how many additional shots had to be taken following principal photography because they desperately had to make a single story out of this patchwork narrative. Kudos to Scorsese for some interesting plot elements and crafting a handful of compelling short films here, and kudos to the editor for making that into one film whose seams, while fully visibile, were stitched together enough so as to avoid the whole quilt falling apart.


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