If its Oscar nomination for best pictures drives a few more people to see “Hugo,” that would be a fine thing, but that’s not the same as saying it will or should win.
This is a nice movie with a sweet heart. It’s visually enchanting with a seamless mix of live action and animation. Ben Kinglsey is fine, as always, in a fairly narrow role, but the movie relies a good deal on its two child stars – Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz – who are only OK. Butterfield, as our heroic lead, has his moments (and he’s better than he was in the dreadful “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”), but there’s not quite enough there to carry the movie. It’s Sacha Baron Cohen, as a mean sort of Inspector Clouseau, who surprisingly steps past his cardboard cutout character when given a chance and adds some dimension and evokes sympathy and understanding rather than scorn.
Director Martin Scorcese creates a rich world of fantasy inside the Paris train station of the 1930s and uses that to spring into a loving homage to early filmmaking, and those parts of the movie work well, even when they plod just a little. Young Hugo struggles against great odds to unravel a mystery and find out more about who he really is, and in the process he helps right a historic wrong.
It’s a sweet movie. I’m just not sure its on the same level as “The Descendants” or “The Artist.”