Adapted from Brian Selznick's 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret
, the eponymous orphan (played by Asa Butterfield) lives in secret behind the walls of a 1930s Paris train station. After the death of his horologist father, Hugo is conscripted into a life spent tending the station's intricate system of clocks. There he meets Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), a cantankerous toy salesman who is actually the real-life French filmmaker renowned for his early use of special effects and one of the first to marry cinema with fantasy. The film's ironic brilliance is that director Martin Scorsese appropriates the en vogue
3-D technology of today's movies to preserve and venerate pioneers of the medium. Hugo
springs life when recounting Méliès' salad days of blazing cinematic trails on makeshift sets, celebrating the joy of moviemaking and its rightful place as a true art form. Still, there's a mechanical feel to the tableau, as if it's missing a few key components needed to complete the enchanting kids movie it purports to be.