Hugo ends as an engaging film-history lesson for both kids and adults, but it also taps into deeper human emotions and needs along the way.

“I wonder what my purpose is,” Isabelle says to Hugo, who shares the same concerns about his place in this world. He’s an expert on mechanics and clockworks who knows “machines never have any extra parts,” but he’s finding that his own life purpose is a more difficult puzzle to solve.

“I figured I had to be here for some reason. And you have to be here for some reason, too,” he tells Isabelle. The movie’s answer boils down to helping others recover their dignity by remembering their own special purpose.

In the view of one key character, Hugo sees a “broken machine” and fixes it. It’s a moving moment of human healing, a big bow on this gift of a film. Presented in rich 3D—the best use of the technology since Robert Zemeckis’ 3D version of A Christmas Carol (2009)—Hugo looks remarkably vivid and layered, running the gamut from lush snowfalls to out-of-control trains and magical cityscapes. If it’s not a breakthrough on par with the early films to which it pays tribute, it’s a showcase for a beleaguered technology that, when in the hands of excellent filmmakers like James Cameron (Avatar), Zemeckis or Scorsese, can be a marvel.

Film-history buffs are almost sure to fall in love with Hugo, but the film is no dry academic exercise. It’s a tribute to movies that has the power to captivate younger viewers without resorting to relentless action and crude jokes. It neither caters to short attention spans nor taxes viewers’ patience. Instead, it richly rewards its audience with an old-fashioned story filled with imagination.

Hugo is a family film best enjoyed on a big screen in 3D. See it with your family, or on your own, so you can add it to the memories of movie magic you’ll one day pass along to future generations.


  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Hugo’s uncle smokes and is said to be a drunk; a camera operator drinks from a flask.
  • Sex/Nudity: The station inspector asks a man when the last time was that he “had relations” with a woman and later has a conversation alluding to the possibility of a pregnancy; Isabelle kisses Hugo on the cheek.
  • Violence/Crime: Hugo is caught stealing; a man glimpses an approaching fireball that will consume him; dog bites man; the station inspector locks boys up in a cage, or jail; Hugo and Isabelle sneak into a movie theater and are thrown out by an usher; Hugo angrily breaks things; in a frightening dream, Hugo turns into an automaton; war footage and a painting of a dead soldier; Hugo climbs onto an outdoor clock face and hangs from the clock’s hands; a runaway train.
  • Religion/Morals: Hugo is called a reprobate.

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