11/30/2011 10:45 | By Neil Smith, contributor, MSN Movies

Hugo: movie review

A Martin Scorsese kid’s movie? In 3D? Surely some mistake. Well, yes. But it sure is an enchanting one.

Hugo (© Entertainment)

Release date: 2 December 2011
Certificate: U
Starring: Martin Scorsese
Director: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley

What's the story? In 1930s Paris, orphaned Hugo (Butterfield) lives at a train station with just a busted robot for company. Can cantankerous toy shop owner Papa Georges (Kingsley) help him fix it?

What did we think? Though beautifully directed by Martin Scorsese with state-of-the-art 3D that leaps off the screen, Hugo is a tough sell that will leave many nonplussed. Children may find it overly slow, while adults will need to share the director's passion for film history and preservation to get much out of it.

At 69 years of age and with a string of movie classics under his belt, Martin Scorsese has surely earned the right to do whatever the hell he likes. In the case of Hugo, what that is is a love letter to one of the early pioneers of silent cinema that simultaneously makes a case for film preservation - a cause that has been close to the director's heart for decades.

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Yet the GoodFellas and Raging Bull auteur is trying to achieve something else here as well: a family-friendly 3D spectacle with action, adventure, romance and comedy that needs to connect with a large audience to recoup its estimated $170m budget. That's a lot to ask of an unwieldy, self-indulgent period piece that, for all its many pleasures, is not without the occasional dull spot.

Those who attend, though, will find much to admire here, from the perfect recreation of a bustling Paris train terminus to Ben Kingsley's moving portrayal of the forgotten French film-maker Georges Melies. They may also chuckle at the screwball antics of Sacha Baron Cohen as the officious station inspector forever dogging the heels of the titular hero, played charmingly, if rather woodenly, by 14-year-old Asa Butterfield.

3 stars

Verdict: Hugo if you want to.

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