Last fall, I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret and absolutely LOVED IT. A couple of months later, the movie version came out. I was a little nervous from the trailers that perhaps the "Station Inspector" character would take center stage and turn this into a different type of story. I also wasn't thrilled about the 3D element (as I'm not a big fan of 3D in movies anyway as they're often just gimmicky and can be annoying) but I can see where it was appropriate to make this particular film in 3D (since the story itself is a little bit of a commentary on the art of moviemaking).
After many months, I finally got around to renting Hugo and watching it with my kids. I must say that the art of movie making was definitely alive here. We didn't watch it in 3D and I was glad to say that even though there were numerous shots that were obviously taking advantage of the 3D elements, I didn't find these moments distracting or gimmicky.
I was mostly worried about the Station Inspector becoming so "over the top" and crazy as to distract from the subtler emotionally stirring threads of the story. Fortunately even though the Station Inspector was quirky and intense, he wasn't so distracting as to break apart the other elements of the story. I felt that the expanded scenes for the Inspector were well done and added fun new vignettes.
I found the movie presentation of the story wonderfully endearing and heartfelt. However it felt like it lost some of the immersive emotional nature that I felt in the book. With the book the chapters were short and fast paced, interspersed with gorgeous artwork to complement the story. The movie I think tried to do some of that with the great scenery and costume work as well as the 3D, but for some reason it just didn't draw me in as much as the book. I felt like Ben Kingsley was great (granted, I've always enjoyed his acting) and I really liked the young actors who played Hugo and Isabelle.
Overall I felt like the production value was great, the story was good and the acting and directing were good. But in taking this movie from the page to the screen, it just didn't feel as fresh and engaging to me. I wonder if I might feel the same in re-reading the book…maybe so. Still, I can recommend this as a touching and fun movie to watch. It's family friendly, has some fun characters and adventure, and even mixes in some interesting educational and emotional twists. For my money, I think I'd rather read the book. But you wouldn't have to twist my arm too much to watch the movie again either.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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