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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Hugo

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Asa Butterfield and Jude Law star in a scene from the movie "Hugo."
Set against the luminous background of 1930s Paris, the family-oriented 3-D fable "Hugo" (Paramount) is a visually rich, emotionally warm adaptation of author Brian Selznick's best-selling novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

While it represents a suitable holiday treat for most, though, director Martin Scorsese's film includes fleeting passages of dialogue touching on adult matters and some mild misbehavior that hinder recommendation for all.

Scorsese's canvas is broad and crowded, but at its center stands the diminutive figure of the title character (Asa Butterfield), a 12-year-old orphan who passes a hand-to-mouth existence in one of the City of Light's great train stations. Early scenes only gradually reveal the circumstances that have left Hugo in this precarious and vulnerable situation.

Following his beloved father's death in a fire—his mother's demise had taken place some years previously—Hugo was taken in by his drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), who lived and worked in the terminal servicing its many clocks. Claude, however, has subsequently disappeared.

To disguise the fact that he no longer has a guardian—and so avoid being shipped off to an orphanage by the seemingly merciless officer responsible for station security (Sacha Baron Cohen)—the mechanically gifted lad clandestinely carries on Claude's labors. In his spare time, Hugo draws on the same talents in his struggle to repair a mysterious automaton he and Dad had been tinkering with at the time of the latter's death.

Knowing that, when operative, the automaton is able to write, Hugo feels sure that his father will use the primitive robot to send him a message from beyond the grave.

Driven to shoplift the spare parts needed for his project, Hugo incurs the wrath of Georges (Ben Kingsley), an embittered toymaker who keeps shop within the terminus. But he draws a very different reaction from Georges' adopted daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), a vivacious girl of his own age—as well as a fellow orphan—who swiftly befriends him.

These primary proceedings are embellished by the amusing romantic endeavors of Baron Cohen's increasingly sympathetic, though enduringly nameless, character as well as those of two more peripheral figures.

Along with his paean to the wondrous city by the Seine and to the realm of the imagination—a territory of dreams and eccentric inventiveness that the film skillfully navigates—Scorsese uses late-reel plot developments concerning Georges' mysterious past to celebrate the pioneers of early cinema.

Yet, while childlike in many respects, "Hugo" does raise a few red flags for the youngest. A brief side story, for instance, concerns a policeman who doubts the paternity of the child his wife is carrying and there's also a scene where Hugo—whom we've seen pilfering food stands for survival—picks the lock of a movie theater so that he and Isabelle can sneak in for free.

Additionally, kids might be frightened by Hugo's more spectacular—sometimes life-threatening—scrapes.

For teens and their elders, nonetheless, and especially for film enthusiasts, "Hugo" manages to cast a charming spell.

The film contains a few mature references, occasional peril and some implicitly endorsed petty lawbreaking. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Martyrdom of John the Baptist: The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? 
<p>This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.</p> American Catholic Blog Just as my children become members of my family when I bring them into the world, so too our baptism incorporates us into the family of the Church. This supernatural membership prevents us from being orphans who have to fend for themselves in the spiritual wilderness.

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