That tissue, it must be said, is thin. Despite Logan's best efforts, the vignettes involving a tentative romance between the station inspector and a flower seller played by Emily Mortimer lack dimensional reasons for being, as do minor characters played by Christopher Lee and others. The more prominent Melies becomes in the telling of "Hugo," however, the more rewarding the results. Near the end "Hugo" shoves Hugo himself off to the side of his own story, focusing instead (as did the book) on the resurrection of silent film legend Melies. Scorsese clearly relished recreating scenes depicting the making of Melies' 14-minute 1902 landmark fantasy "A Trip to the Moon."
Much of this is the result of swanky art direction and Robert Richardson's pearly cinematography, but it's also due to Scorsese's sense of wonder. His sense of humor is less sure. An early slapstick sequence, in which Cohen's artificial leg gets snagged by a locomotive, doesn't set up the ground rules for danger clearly enough (Is this man going to die? Is it supposed to be funny?) Scorsese is dealing with source material (Selznick's, that is) that might've been best confined to about 107 minutes of movie, i.e., 20 minutes fewer than we have.
Still: A lot of "Hugo" is pictorially entrancing and quite moving. And there's one shot of the inspector in his tub, muttering aloud about Hugo's whereabouts, followed by Scorsese's cutaway to the man's enormous Doberman sitting in the same tub. It's the silliest moment in a movie not much interested in jokes. It may also be the niftiest use of a dog on the big screen since Frank Tashlin deployed a dachshund in CinemaScope in "Bachelor Flat" nearly 50 years ago.
Grade: Three stars out of five
Genres: Family, Holiday
Running Time: 127 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG