Many will be scratching their heads seeing the director of “Goodfellas” and “The Departed” attached to a family movie — and one that’s shot in 3-D, no less. But once it’s clear that this is about seminal filmmaker Georges Méliès as much as it is about an orphaned boy living in the clock towers of a French rail station in 1930s, it does makes sense.
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young tinkerer, taking after his deceased clockmaker father. As he tries to reanimate the robotic “automaton” that his father left behind, he falls into the path of Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who sulks at his toy shop in the station, years after his film career has been destroyed by the Depression.
While visually gorgeous, “Hugo” seems to be neither a crowd-pleaser nor one of Scorsese’s trademark “auteur” pieces. Its high-mindedness can sometimes keep it from being any fun, and its more serious themes aren’t fleshed out enough to be as moving as some of Scorsese’s best efforts. But the film has heart at its core. It’s gorgeous to look at and while it’s too long at over two hours, it’s never schmaltzy. “Hugo” seems to be urgently trying to convince us that it’s a classic.