This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a children's movie! I must emphasize this, as you may have been misled by the PG rating. (The children's book upon which it's based has been fundamentally changed.) This is a wonderful, heartfelt, visual feast, dedicated to cinephiles everywhere! Movie lovers are rapturous over it, while I saw children brought along by well-meaning parents, who were bewildered and bored.

The opening scene is a magnificent, deeply dimensional, 3D shot of a massive clockworks. It segues into traffic headlights encircling the Eiffel Tower and an aerial view of 1930s Paris. From that moment I knew I was in the hands of a master filmmaker! We are behind the scenes (in the walls and attic) of a huge Parisian train station where we see how they maintain the clocks: oiling, winding, repairing and fine-tuning them. It's no wonder the orphan boy charged with these marvels sees the world as a giant clockwork; his entire life centers around oil cans, counterweights, gears, flywheels, and mainsprings.

Director (and Film Historian) Martin Scorsese ("The Departed") brings us this wonderful cast:
  • Asa Butterfield ("The Boy in the Striped Pajamas") is our eponymous hero, striving to unlock the mystery of his father's death. He lives in the walls of the train station, stealing what he needs and living by his wits. He is apprenticed to his drunken uncle, thus he works on the clocks.
  • Jude Law ("Sherlock Holmes") appears briefly as our hero's all- too-soon-dead father, but he was working on an automaton, which Hugo now sees as something he absolutely must complete.
  • Ben Kingsley ("Shutter Island") is Georges Méliès, the center- piece of this tribute to early French cinema. A magician turned cinematographer in 1895, this innovative pioneer was very nearly forgotten despite his almost 500 films made prior to WWI. This homage includes a moment when he is belatedly honored for his contributions.
  • Chloë Grace Moretz ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") is a girl who joins our young hero on an "adventure!" Her first taste of the cinema is the well-known clip of Harold Lloyd hanging from the face of that clock. This film is checkered with many such classic moments.
  • Helen McCrory ("The Queen") is Jeanne Méliès, wife of Georges. This actress was so convincing as an older woman, I was im- pressed by her makeup when she appeared younger. Silly me!
  • Emil Lager ("Cheerful Weather for the Wedding") fooled us all. We thought he was Johnny Depp, doing a surprise cameo as a guitar player in the train station!
  • Sasha Baron Cohen ("Brüno") is the gendarme determined to catch our boy and send him to an orphanage. Well, catch him he does!
  • Emily Mortimer ("Our Idiot Brother") is a sweet flower vendor in the station. The gendarme gets tongue-tied around her.
  • Christopher Lee ("Season of the Witch") is a librarian who directs our youngsters to books on topics they are researching.
We were pleased to see the emphasis placed on the value of books. Courtesy of excellent 3D, we cringe from a horrific train wreck and struggle with the children as they try to push through a crowded train station. We revel in the discovery and restoration of many of Méliès' well-known film clips and marvel at his ingenuity.

This is an excellent film for film buffs...but not for children!

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a link to a preview:
* * * * * * * * * * * *