Hugo didn't win the Oscar for best picture, but that won't diminish its enduring appeal.
Based on a book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Martin Scorsese's film is a magical experience for all ages. Hugo, shot in 3D, is a cinematic treat in 3D or 2D.
Asa Butterfield plays a lonely orphan whose only connection to his late father, a clockmaker (Jude Law), is a broken automaton, or mechanical man, that a museum had discarded.
Hugo lives in the Paris train station of the 1930s. He tends the clocks, a task left to him when his drunken uncle (Ray Winstone), who had the job, disappears.
Never miss a local story.
Afraid of being found out by the station's inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a World War I veteran who is unsympathetic toward orphans, Hugo sneaks around the station, stealing parts to fix the automaton from melancholy shopkeeper Georges (Ben Kingsley).
The old man catches the boy but takes pity on him and puts him to work.
Hugo soon accumulates enough parts to fix the machine but needs a heart-shaped key to turn it on. One day, trying to escape the inspector, he discovers it on the toy-store owner's goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), but it unlocks a bigger secret.
Hugo is an adventure of the heart, one involving the history of cinema. Georges is Georges Melies, a magician who became a movie pioneer. His 1902 A Trip to the Moon, a comic sci-fi fantasy, was years ahead of its time.
Ever the film student, Scorsese dazzles. Hugo is about the imagination of cinema. The way he moves the camera through the train station is a lesson in filmmaking. He populates the film with so many fun visual touches that you will never catch them all in one viewing, displaying a whimsy that, unfortunately, he hasn't gotten to display in many of his great movies.
As much as Melies was an innovator, Scorsese, in honoring him, proves again that he's the master.
Hugo retails for $29.99 or $44.99 on Blu-ray.