Movie review: Hugo

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From the November 24, 2011 edition

Leave it to Martin Scorsese to make 3D something wondrous again. In “Hugo,” Scorsese uses 3D to craft a loving, gorgeous work about cinema’s magical ability to transport, to connect and to bring dreams to the waking world.

A breathtaking Steadicam shot over the city of Paris that swoops into a large train station and settles on a close-up of Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is the first of many times in which an unmoored camera dives or leaps through the depths of Scorsese’s massive soundstage set.

Orphaned Hugo lives in the train station, fixing its clocks and trying to revive the one thing his clockmaker father left him — a strange automaton found in a museum attic. How did he end up there? What are the automaton’s origins, and why does a drawing of it so upset the station’s crotchety old toy vendor (Ben Kingsley)?

Beyond a hint that it all has to do with one of the godfathers of moviemaking, I’ll leave that to you to discover. The story’s a bit too long and convoluted not just for this space, but for its own good. Scorsese’s spell starts to fade a bit after two hours or so, and whenever Sacha Baron Cohen’s train station law enforcer appears.

Nonetheless, it’s a treat for adult movie lovers, and it may inspire fresh passion for the cinema in all ages.