Reel Reviews

‘Hugo’

Audience:
Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents

 

Watch Review Watch Trailer

More Movie Reviews


 

Rate the Trailer

 

Scorsese storytelling for teens and up

Set against the luminous background of 1930s Paris, the family-oriented 3-D fable “Hugo” (Paramount) is a visually rich, emotionally warm adaptation of author Brian Selznick’s best-selling – and Caldecott Medal-winning – novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

While it represents a suitable holiday treat for most, though, director Martin Scorsese’s film includes fleeting passages of dialogue touching on adult matters and some mild misbehavior that hinder recommendation for all.

Scorsese’s canvas is broad and crowded, but at its center stands the diminutive figure of the title character (Asa Butterfield), a 12-year-old orphan who passes a hand-to-mouth existence in one of the City of Light’s great train stations. Early scenes only gradually reveal the circumstances that have left Hugo in this precarious and vulnerable situation.

Following his beloved father’s death in a fire – his mother’s demise had taken place some years previously – Hugo was taken in by his drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), who lived and worked in the terminal servicing its many clocks. Claude, however, has subsequently disappeared.

To disguise the fact that he no longer has a guardian – and so avoid being shipped off to an orphanage by the seemingly merciless officer responsible for station security (Sacha Baron Cohen) – the mechanically gifted lad clandestinely carries on Claude’s labors. In his spare time, Hugo draws on the same talents in his struggle to repair a mysterious automaton he and Dad had been tinkering with at the time of the latter’s death.

Knowing that, when operative, the automaton is able to write, Hugo feels sure that his father will use the primitive robot to send him a message from beyond the grave.

Driven to shoplift the spare parts needed for his project, Hugo incurs the wrath of Georges (Ben Kingsley), an embittered toymaker who keeps shop within the terminus. But he draws a very different reaction from Georges’ adopted daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), a vivacious girl of his own age –as well as a fellow orphan – who swiftly befriends him.

These primary proceedings are embellished by the amusing romantic endeavors of Baron Cohen’s increasingly sympathetic, though enduringly nameless, character as well as those of two more peripheral figures.

Along with his paean to the wondrous city by the Seine and to the realm of the imagination – a territory of dreams and eccentric inventiveness that the film skillfully navigates – Scorsese uses late-reel plot developments concerning Georges’ mysterious past to celebrate the pioneers of early cinema.

Yet, while childlike in many respects, “Hugo” does raise a few red flags for the youngest. A brief side story, for instance, concerns a policeman who doubts the paternity of the child his wife is carrying and there’s also a scene where Hugo – whom we’ve seen pilfering food stands for survival – picks the lock of a movie theater so that he and Isabelle can sneak in for free.

Additionally, kids might be frightened by Hugo’s more spectacular – sometimes life-threatening –scrapes.

For teens and their elders, nonetheless, and especially for film enthusiasts, “Hugo” manages to cast a charming spell.

The film contains a few mature references, occasional peril and some implicitly endorsed petty lawbreaking. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘The Muppets’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

Watch Review Watch Trailer

More Movie Reviews


 

Rate the Review

 

Heart-felt fun for the whole family!

Jim Henson’s singing, dancing, wise-cracking band of puppets returns to the big screen in “The Muppets” (Disney), an old-fashioned and genuinely funny homage to a simpler age of wholesome family films.

Refreshingly restrained when it comes to the toilet humor and rude behavior so often spoon-fed to young filmgoers these days, “The Muppets” will appeal to nostalgic baby boomers, even as it introduces a new generation to the decidedly low-tech felt figures for whom charm is a strong suit.

Gary (Jason Segel) and his brother Walter (voice of Peter Linz) live in Smalltown, U.S.A. They’re good pals, despite the fact that Walter is decidedly different – in fact, he's a Muppet. Together they watch TV reruns of “The Muppet Show,” which, as many viewers will remember, originally aired in first-run syndication from 1976 to 1981.

When Gary decides to take his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Los Angeles for their 10th anniversary, he invites Walter to come along and see the Muppet Studios where their favorite series was produced. To their horror, they find that the Muppets have disbanded and the theater is in shambles. Walter stumbles upon the designs of wicked oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to tear down the studios and drill for oil – unless $10 million can be raised in just two days.

Walter persuades Gary and Mary to mount a rescue. “As long as there are singing frogs and dancing bears the world is a good and kind place,” Walter says. “There is hope.”

They locate Kermit the Frog (voice of Steve Whitmire), down and out in his Beverly Hills mansion, surrounded by memories of long-ago fame. Walter raises the frog from his funk, telling him, “You give people the greatest gift of all.”
 
"Children?" Kermit replies.

No.

“Ice cream?”

No.

“Laughter,” Walter reveals, “is the third greatest gift of all.”
 
Kermit agrees to stage a telethon, and sets out in his Rolls-Royce with his new friends to round up the old gang. Fozzie Bear (voice of Eric Jacobson) is discovered in Reno performing with a tribute band called “The Moopets.” Animal (also voiced by Jacobson), the manic rock-and-roll drummer, is taking anger management classes with Jack Black, who reluctantly becomes the celebrity host of the telethon.

In Paris (the Rolls drives there, underwater), Miss Piggy (also voiced by Jacobson) is the plus-size editor for Vogue magazine. She still pines for Kermit, whom she hoped to marry. “We could have had a home and raised tadpoles and grown old together,” she tells him.

But felt proves thicker than water, and the Muppets reunite, clean up the old theater, and start rehearsals for the telethon. As they assume their old identities, the brothers rediscover their own. “Am I a man or a Muppet?” Gary asks. “Am I a Muppet or a man?” Walter asks. The answers come with good lessons about family, friendship, believing in yourself and following your dreams.

Directed by newcomer James Bobin, “The Muppets” contains several catchy songs and some exuberant dance numbers. Among the many celebrity cameos is Mickey Rooney, that old hoofer who knew a thing or two about putting on a fun show for the entire family.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

(By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)