Review: Hugo in 3D

It would be lovely to say that the re-release of The Last Waltz wasn't the best Martin Scorsese picture out this week but though it has a veneer of novelty – his first children's film, his first in 3D – this really has the same concerns as all his movies, the adoration and mimicking of old movies.

It is set in a snowbound Disney cartoon version of early 1930s Paris, where everybody has a British accent and puffs of smoke are forever blowing up into the restless camera.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lurks in the nooks and crannies of Montparnasse train station. He has a giant automated clockwork doll that he can't find the key to but is linked in some way to a mysterious toy shop owner (Sir Ben Kingsley.)

To pad out the rather slim main story there are various sub-Am�lie interludes on the station floor with a cautious romance between Richard Griffiths and Frances De La Tour, plus some comic bits from Sacha Baron Cohen as a station inspector, who is dressed up like Officer Crabtree ('good moaning') in Allo Allo!.

The weakness of the central narrative means it feels like padding, stringing you along as the film slowly reveals itself to be a dry and indulgent tribute to George M�li�s, the pioneering filmmaker who gave the fledgling art form its first iconic image – the rocket lodged in the eye of the man in the moon in his 1902 Un Voyage Dans la Lune.

I saw this with a crowd full of Bafta members, who applauded warmly at the end, partly out of appreciation for a film which gave so many of their members employment (it was shot in Pinewood) and partly because it is the narrative equivalent of a lifetime achievement presentation.

Few people have done more than Scorsese to preserve and restore old movies and it was a bold choice to try and make a children's film about it.

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But if I was a young child, or a parent who had paid a bit extra for a 3D trip to the cinema, I would be mightily underwhelmed.

It sparkles and glitters like all the other Christmas movie treats, but beneath it all, it's a bit like having Sir John Major tell you about the time he met cricketer Len Hutton and got his autograph.


Directed: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory and Jude Law.

Length: 122 Mins