[4.5 stars] Hugo (2011) on IMDb

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Nominated for 10 Oscars, and won 5 of them (although not any of the biggies). And, yes, it's pretty good.

Set in post-WWI Paris, it's the story of Hugo Cabret, a plucky little orphan kid who (literally) lives in the walls of a train station. In a flashback, we learn how he got there: Hugo's dad worked in a museum, and was killed in a fire, but not before bequeathing Hugo a love of gadgetry and a non-working robot. Hugo's uncle brings him to where he works: the train station, where his job is to keep the clockworks running. But then the uncle disappears.

Hugo doesn't want to go to the orphanage. So he takes over his uncle's duties surreptitiously, and stays alive by swiping food from vendors. He's pursued by the local gendarme (Sacha Baron Cohen), and tormented by a nasty and bitter toyshop keeper (Ben Kingsley), who filches one of Hugo's prize possessions. In attempting to get it back, Hugo gets involved with the man's family, and discovers the man's unexpected past life: he's Georges Méliès, a pioneer of cinematic special effects at the turn of the century.

It's an appealing mix of drama, comedy, and fantasy. Unfortunately, I am kicking myself for not seeing it as it was really meant to be seen: on a big 3D screen. This is one of the movies where that would have been worthwhile. (And it's sort of fitting that a movie concerned with the earliest movie magic would have some of the latest.)

It's directed by Martin Scorsese, so I kept waiting for foulmouthed gangsters to show up and whack someone. But that doesn't happen. Acting is first-rate, although nobody seems to have a French accent.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:39 AM EDT