A Review of the Movie “Hugo” (2011)

Hugo (2011) is the cinematic adaptation of Brian Selznick’s The Invention on Hugo Cabret. Intended for ages 8 and up, Hugo presents a great story about overcoming fears and learning to trust. Staying true to the story told in the book as well as the cinematic devices Selzinck employs, the movie adds another platform for telling the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphan whose father dies in a fire and whose Uncle disappears, leaving him to tend the clocks of the Gare Montparnasse train station. He is caught steeling from the toy maker, who turns out to be early film pioneer George Melies. Through the course of the narrative, Hugo ends up with an automaton that once belonged to Melies. Through the trials and tribulations of the movie, Hugo not only completes the work of his father, but also finds a new home and place to belong.

Like the book, Hugo presents the history of early cinema in a way that is age appropriate without being overly simplistic. There is a lengthy digression about midway through the movie- just as in the book- that looks at the history of early French Cinema. For younger children, this side road may be too intellectual or narratively sophisticated for them to understand. Common Sense Media, as wells as other critics, have also raised concerns that the emotional turmoil Hugo is put through, his father dying and the constant threat of being taken to an orphanage, may be too emotionally mature for viewers under 8. Hugo is also, not heavily influenced by other types of mass media nor was it created with the objective of selling many different types of products. Parents can feel good about allowing their child to view Hugo, knowing that they are not going to be targeted as consumers..

Hugo is a great adaptation, staying very true to the narrative of The Invention on Hugo Cabret, while at the same time adding humor and depth to background characters that where merely mentioned in the book, such as the station guard. The movie was directed by Martine Scorsese, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, the Golden Globe for Best Director, and countless other awards both internationally and in the US. Everything about the movie is authentic in its portrayal of 1930s Paris and early cinematic history and tradition.  The film uses CGI to create the train station, but also to begin the movie as the book begin- a journey from an overhead view of Paris that slowly closes in on the streets of the city. The thought put into every detail of the film is noticeable and gives life to a time and place so far removed from today.  It gives life to a time and an series of events, the invention of cinema as we known it today, in a way that can inspire children to look closer at movies and history. Hugo is such an authentic portrayal; it may even inspire future cinema professionals to being their journey into cinematic magic.

Reviewed by Rebecca Stanwick