Scorsese Brings 'Hugo' To The Big Screen

Hugo is the latest film directed by Martin Scorsese. It's based on a children's book, and is decidedly less dark and violent than the films he's most known for.

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Another new movie paying tribute to old films was directed by Martin Scorsese. He's made his share of dark and bloody pictures; think "Goodfellas" and "Gangs of New York." So it was hard for critic Kenneth Turan to imagine him directing "Hugo," a film based on a children's book.

KENNETH TURAN: Hugo is Hugo Cabret, a 12-year-old boy in 1931 Paris who lives by himself in the upper reaches of a massive train station. He rushes around through hidden corridors like a pre-teen Phantom of the Opera, as he keeps all the station's clocks wound and in good repair.

Hugo is still mourning the recent death of his father. He tries to stay connected to him by searching for the spare parts he needs to repair a mysterious machine the two of them were working on.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HUGO")

ASA BUTTERFIELD: (as Hugo Cabret) What is it?

JUDE LAW: (as Hugo's father) It's a wind-up figure, like a music box.

BUTTERFIELD: Who built him?

LAW: I would think a magician.

TURAN: That obsessive quest for gears leads to a head-on collision with a gruff old man played by Ben Kingsley, but the old man also has a ward named Isabelle who is always up for adventure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HUGO")

CHLOE GRACE MORETZ: (as Isabelle) Who are you?

BUTTERFIELD: Hugo.

MORETZ: Where do you live? Is it a secret?

BUTTERFIELD: Yes.

MORETZ: Oh, good. I love secrets.

TURAN: "Hugo's" creative use of 3-D is magical. The film's numerous panoramic shots, floating over the rooftops of Paris, create a delightful sense of wonder.

The original story in Brian Selznick's award-winning children's book is strictly serious, but for reasons of its own, the movie has chosen to add a major slapstick element. It doesn't work.

But coming to the film's rescue is one of Martin Scorsese's great passions, his love for the early history of the movies. "Hugo" deals extensively with one of cinema's key pioneers, the great George Melies. Melies says, films have the power to capture dreams. They've captured Scorsese's but he doesn't completely capture ours.

WERTHEIMER: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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