Based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the film centers on an orphan (Asa Butterfield) secretly living in a train station. Hugo is a gifted young mechanic who maintains and fixes the various clocks at his unusual home.
He also tinkers with a human-shaped machine found by his late father, unaware of its real purpose. He periodically steals parts from a toy shop owned by stern old Georges (Ben Kingsley), who recognizes Hugo’s skills and lets him work there as atonement. The boy is befriended by Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), joining him in figuring out the man-machine’s mystery.
“Hugo,” while a mite longer than most family-oriented films, partly enchants because of its cast—Butterfield conveys impressively; Moretz’ accent takes some getting used to but she fits nicely; Kingsley expectedly gives his character radiance and depth; Sacha Baron Cohen’s stationmaster is appropriately pesky.
Apart from the cast, the film’s mild science fiction aspects mix quite well with its more reality-anchored components. Younger viewers will appreciate the more quest-structured scenarios, while grownups will be rewarded with a moving revelation concerning forgotten and rekindled dreams.