Anthony Sacramone’s review speaks to what’s great about the movie — and perhaps why it hasn’t done better at the box office than it has:
As Hugo ponders the meaning of the mechanical man he has been left by his father, he comes to see that machines work because each and every part, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant, has a role to play in the larger scheme of things. Everything, in other words, has a purpose. Including the little orphan boy Hugo.
That, and the prospect that there are mysterious, even providential, connections that run through life that suggest that there are no coincidences.
So, why hasn’t everybody rushed out to see “Hugo”? Sacramone:
Because it’s a kids’ film for adults. What kid has a love of the old – old movies, old books, old tales of adventure and daring do. Not the telling of the tales – but the mere remembering of the tales, and the world in which they were first conjured.
It’s also a film about the “magic” of the mechanical, the makeshift, and the gear-laden. The 1920s saw machines beginning to dominate industry, manufacturing – newfangled automobiles and automation and auto-everything would at the close of another war see even more home-spun dreariness evaporate with the click of a switch. Yes, there was a time when one could still marvel at the possibilities. …
To remember a time of such innocence, for lack of a better word, or perhaps the quotidian, when a wind-up toy, a mechanical man, and the movies as movies could still beguile is not for kids of 10 or 14. You’d have to at least remember buying records and videotape players and roll-up windows in cars. And what a big deal Star Wars and the first Superman were – You’ll believe a man can fly! Sheesh, today, you’d better make me believe I can fly.
Read the whole thing. For the record, my boys loved the movie, but I have to admit I haven’t heard them talking about it since we saw the film. Of course, they’re totally conversant in all things “Star Wars,” but I feel sorry for them that they never got to see it when it was mind-blowing. I well remember where I was when I saw it. I was 10 years old, and my dad had let me go into the University Cinema near LSU by myself to see the damn thing while he found something else to do, because he couldn’t stand watching space cowboys for two hours. Honestly, it must have been the most incredible thing to have happened to me to that point in my life. “Star Wars” on the big screen, in 1977, was a religious experience. Sitting here at my table in Philadelphia right this second, I get a chill thinking about how I felt in that final scene, when Han, Luke, and Chewie get the medals. It felt, I dunno … kind of eschatological. It is hard to estimate how powerful “Star Wars” was in the imaginations of 10 year old boys in 1977. I drove the riding lawn mower around and around our big yard that summer, mowing grass and imagining that I was blasting through the universe, in search of Tie fighters.
Is it even possible for kids to be amazed like that these days?