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Movie Reviews
by Jay Saenz

Hugo (11/23/2011)

Rated PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.

Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Ben Kingsley

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Jay's Rating: Theatre Worthy

I’m going to begin by saying something I NEVER thought I would say: If possible, see this movie in 3D.

I could talk about the visuals all day, but I’ll simply say that Hugo’s version of Paris is gorgeous, and director Martin Scorsese has created very possibly the best looking 3D film to date.

The film follows a young boy, Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who lives by himself in a train station, stealing food and dodging the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) who seems to delight in sending lost children to the orphanage.

After the death of his father, Hugo is sent to live with his uncle, a drunk who works fixing the clockwork inside the station. When his uncle disappears, Hugo is left to fix the clocks himself, something he has grown quite good at.

In his spare time, he works on a mysterious, broken automaton (re: eerie robot) using a journal full of notes written and drawn by his late father. To do this, Hugo steals parts from the shop of a local toymaker, Georges. When the toymaker (Ben Kingsley) finally catches Hugo, the mystery begins in earnest, as Kingsley’s character has some apparent history with Hugo’s automaton. Together with Papa Georges’ niece Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), Hugo sets out to fix his automaton and find the connection between it and Isabelle’s father.

The resulting journey is satisfying in surprising ways. The final acts of the movie are made up of a touching and engaging (not to mention historically accurate) retelling of the history of early film which showcases Scorsese’s devotion and love for the medium. But deep down, Hugo is really about finding your place in the world and knowing that you were meant for something important. Asa Butterfield does a magnificent job of exploring the complexities of his character; at times he dives headlong into a task, believing fully that his father is watching over him and guiding him; other times he is unsure of himself and questions his purpose.

One of my favorite things about Hugo is that the characters honestly struggle with who they are, much like we do. And at the film’s end, you feel that many of them have gone through real, personal growth. Hugo touches on some harsh issues, but does so in a way that is accessible to both kids and adults, without having to rush through just to keep everyone’s attention.

In short, Hugo is a family film worth watching, with deep characterization, stunning visuals, and a story about a boy who just wants to know what his place is.

Hugo’s pacing is a good deal slower than typical family films. If your kid needs high amounts of energy to stay entertained, you may want to pass. The themes of the movie are also a bit more mature than kids might be used to, but nothing obscene.
Lastly, there is a scene that involves Hugo almost being hit by a train that is pretty intense.

Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

Q: What’s the message/theme of this movie?

A: Everyone has a purpose. Machines don’t have any extra parts, and neither does our world. Everyone has something they can do that no one else can, and we do a disservice to ourselves if we don’t take the time to find out what that is.

Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
A: We live in a media-driven society that constantly bombards us, telling us that we have to conform in order to belong. But the Bible tells us differently. Instead, God values our differences and encourages us to make use of those differences.

1 Corinthians 12: 27-30 says it this way:
    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
We all make up the body of Christ, and no part is any more important than any other. God loves us as we are, for who we are.

Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?
I always have trouble being jealous of other people’s talents. I wish I could sing, I wish I could dance, I wish I could build. At times like these, it is important to remember that God created me specifically for a specific purpose. For what I’ll need to do, I won’t need to dance, or sing, or build. I’ll just have to leave that to all the singers, dancers and builders God created!

Jay Saenz Jay Saenz is the pastor of 4th and 5th grade ministry at a church in Garland, TX. He loves to teach and does his best to use current films to help make biblical points. Jay has always loved stories. It doesn’t matter what form they take; if someone has a story to tell, Jay is ready to hear it, be it a movie, TV show, play, novel, comic, or interpretive dance. He would love to study each form separately, but since he is currently still only one person, he decided to focus on Film. When there are no pressing films to watch, Jay likes to cook, write and run.

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