Movie Review: Hugo

Movie Review: Hugo

HugoRating:  G Distributor: Paramount Release Date: January 12The release of The Adventures of Tintin led me to comment that there must be a level of success that directors can rise to that stops distribution companies asking them what it is they plan to make, and leads them to simply send blank cheques. That might have been all well […]

By Mark HadleyFriday 13 Jan 2012MoviesReading Time: 5 minutes


Rating:  G
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 12

The release of The Adventures of Tintin led me to comment that there must be a level of success that directors can rise to that stops distribution companies asking them what it is they plan to make, and leads them to simply send blank cheques. That might have been all well and good for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, but executives really should have asked Martin Scorcese what he was thinking when it came to Hugo.

Hugo is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name that tells the story of a young boy living within the walls of a Paris train station during the 1930s. Since the death of his father Hugo Cabret has looked after the station’s clocks under the supervision of his drunken uncle. When his uncle goes missing Hugo is in danger of being arrested as a vagrant and sent to an orphanage. However he is determined to solve the mystery of a wind-up robot his father was repairing and the key hanging around the neck of a young girl named Isabelle.

I’m sure Hugo is supposed to be a tale as endearing as Oliver Twist or Tom Brown’s School Days and Scorcese certainly sets about creating that old world feel. It’s clear that the part of the story which centres on pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès was obviously the most interesting to the veteran director given the way he lavishes attention on it. Those parts of the film would also explain the swag of Golden Globe and Film Critics Association nominations for best cinematography, best direction, etc. However the pace of the story and the adult themes of loss and a meaningful occupation aren’t likely to connect with Hugo’s intended audience. I found myself wondering what sort of child would be likely to sit through its 126 minutes of gorgeous cityscapes and sensitive portrayals without getting bored. Maybe 12 to 14-year-old girls, who’d read the book, loved Paris … and cherished a love of 19th-century film. Hmmmmm…

However there is one valuable observation that the young Hugo makes about how design and purpose relate to the human condition. Considering the broken automaton he and Isabelle are trying to repair, he decides that it’s just as important to understand what the robot is for as to have it working again. He then wonders if that is why her uncle George is so unhappy:

“Maybe that’s just like a person without a purpose – they’re broken.”

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And there at least the film hits the nail on the head. Uncle George is miserable because though he labours diligently in his toy store, there is no purpose to his work. His films are lost, and so no longer appreciated. Hugo reminds us that it’s not enough to have people healthy or even gainfully employed. We were designed to labour with a purpose, and not just to be paid. It’s what gives our labour its true value: the sense that it matters more than ourselves. Now the Bible suggests that, to begin with, we need to find satisfaction in what we do, and further that there is contentment to be had in providing for our families. But to know that our labour contributes to something bigger— that will not only last, but will always receive recognition—provides the ultimate peace. In a thousand years it’s hard to say how many people will still appreciate Georges Méliès’ films but Jesus says no job done to benefit the members of his Kingdom will ever be forgotten:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41)

Commercial Kings

Rating:  PG
Distributor: ABC2
Release Date: Tuesdays, 9:30 PM

Summer holiday programming is usually a televisual wasteland dotted with the dessicated remains of aging series and the promises of new programming that amount to little more than mirages. Consequently scanning the guide each week can be a depressing activity. But every now and again a program appears on the horizon like a cool drink of water. Commercial Kings is that sort of welcome refreshment.

Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are two former engineers who became best friends in primary school and have gone on to become Internet sensations. The key to their success? Low-budget commercials. Their television series shows them going around mom-and-pop level businesses desperately in need of a boost, and making cheap TVCs for them. Clients include ‘Ojai Valley Taxidermy’ and ‘Los Angele’s Holiday Hotel for Cats’. The approach in each case is to use the proprietors and local talent to put together a quirky but convincing commercial that will drive new business. Don’t tune in expecting a lesson in cinematography, though. Rhett and Link employ a pet psychic at the Cat Hotel to help its feline patrons contribute to the script. This is off-the-wall television at its best.

Commercial Kings sounds ridiculous, and it would be, if it weren’t so sincere. Rhett and Link never mock the owners of their small businesses. However crazy their personalities, the pair make room for them in the production and seek to both understand and bring out their best qualities. It’s a lesson in acceptance that many Christian congregations could stand to learn. Too often we welcome people into the family of God, then set about seeking to change the non-essentials so they appear and sound more like us. Rhett and Link are more concerned with finding those things their clients do best, then connecting those talents with the communities they want to serve. Amen! From a Christian perspective, handling people this way has a lot to do with a proper perspective on the sovereignty of God. Do we really believe that there is no such thing as a chance meeting, and that God might bring people to us not only to help them, but to help ourselves?

WARNING: Addictive online content! It’s worth noting that Rhett and Link are Internet successes that seem to have made a successful transition to the world of television. If you visit their web site you’ll discover incredible amounts of similar entertainment, including other TVCs, songs and films. This writer personally wasted two hours researching this review :o) Please note that the online content is likely to contain material that falls outside of TV’s PG rating.