There has been a lot of hype about the movie Hugo, based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret“. It won several awards but, no matter how many previews I saw I just could not figure out what the movie was all about. We received Hugo on Blu-Ray/DVD and sat down to watch it as a family.
First of all, no matter what all those critics say, this is not a family movie. It’s not the type of movie you can chomp popcorn during and just relax. Instead, Hugo leans more toward historical fiction with a focus on the actor/director/film maker Georges Méliès. Unless you keep in mind the educational content of the film, you will not appreciate it at all.
The first hour was horribly slow and all three of us were giving each other confused looks. Some may say it was necessary for character development and to set the proper stage for the real plot but it took so long! Plus, the portrayal of people and sets were quite eccentric. As for age-appropriate material, there were several things that may disturbing to viewers under 12 or 13. Hugo has a horrible life with his father being horribly engulfed in a raging fire, his drunkard uncle abandoned him to do his job while he dies and decomposes on the street, and has a frightening nightmare that was extremely intense. I also understand that Hugo had to steal to survive but I did not appreciate the fact that his ‘gift’ to his friend was to pick the lock of the back door to a movie theater and sneak in. The treatment of children and orphans was also harsh, something that may bother younger ones.
Hugo was more of a display of graphic and cinematic technique than a family film to watch over and over again. Also, as mentioned before, it is has much potential for upper elementary to middle school students. Much care was given to the time period covered and the characters involved at different stages of their lives. After reading the book, watching the film would be great for a follow-up lesson or compare/contrast report. It could also be used as a basis for a biography of the book author, Georges Méliès, or Martin Scorsese or during a unit study of World War I.
My husband and I were able to see how the movie tied together and it spurred on further interest in who Georges Méliès actually was. My daughter didn’t like the movie. Though she ‘endured’ watching it to the end, it was more of a letdown of wasted family time to her. Still, since basic plot is interesting and we decided to borrow the book from the library to check out the original story and artwork. Unless you have children that really love history and can sit through two hours of dialogue and imagery, you may want to save Hugo as a supplementary school project versus happy together time.