First, there is probably no reason to see Hugo in 3-D. You pay more, wear the glasses, and see the film with a gimmicky 3-D overlay that adds little to the enjoyment.
But, there IS a reason to see Hugo (whether 2-D or 3-D) because it’s a wonderful film, good for the kids, yes, but perhaps even better for the adults who can appreciate the subtleties that might escape their children.
Based on an illustrated children’s novel by Brian Selznick, Hugo tells the story of a twelve year old boy living behind the walls of Gare Montparnasse in Paris between the wars, and his wondrous adventures. His father, a master clock maker, is killed in a museum fire. Hugo worshiped his father, went to the movies with him, and had been helping him restore an automaton (a pre-computerized robot of sorts) which his father found in the museum attic. After his father’s death, he is taken by an uncle, who lives in the Montparnasse station and keeps the station’s many clocks running, but is also a drunk. And he disappears, leaving Hugo alone to fend for himself, keeping the clocks in repair and foraging for food in the shops of the station.
So far, so good, but Hugo’s hidden work at Montparnasse requires repair parts, and he can only get them by stealing from a toy repair shop in the station. He also cannot finish repairing the automaton, because a certain heart shaped key is missing which is needed to start the machine going. The toy store is run by a curmudgeon who only wants to punish young Hugo. Hugo is befriended by the god-daughter of the toy store owner, who it turns out wears the magic key on a chain around her neck.
And the toy store owner turns out not only to be the original creator of the automaton, but an embittered cinema pioneer named Georges Melies, who had not been able to change his film making to keep up with the times, closed his theater, his studio, and has been overwhelmed by deep depression and bitterness. As to the full plot line, all you need to know now is that everything turns out OK (or better than OK).
Here is what is beautiful about the film, in addition to the Selznick story line. The acting is flawless. The cinematography is flawless. The reconstruction of the Gare Montparnasse is wonderfully detailed. The hundreds of extras as perfect. The automaton is very cute (it writes; it draws). And…….
the story line is a mixture of fact and fiction. Georges Melies is a true historical figure, a pioneer of French cinema, whose life story is quite similar (if not an exact copy of) to that of the character in the film. The many clips of old Melies films interwoven into the story are, in fact, clips of old Melies films, which have been re-discovered after assumed lost. And real historical events are integrated into the story – such as the 1895 Montparnasse station run-away train.
Scorsese’ direction is flawless. As is the acting, by Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, young Asa Butterfield, and everyone else.