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Perry’s Previews Movie Review: Hugo Reveals the Magic of the Cinema

Published on: 23rd November, 2011

Perry Chen at Hugo press screening (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry’s Previews Movie Review: Hugo Reveals the Magic of the Cinema

(4.5 out of 5 starfish)                                                                                                                     Nov 23, 2011

Rating: PG

By Perry S. Chen

Have you ever wondered if orphans have dreams and aspirations of their own? In “Hugo,” a Martin Scorsese 3D film opening TODAY, based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), the 12-year-old son of a deceased clockmaker, lives in a bustling Parisian train station secretly winding the clocks, filching pastries from cafes, and stealing parts from a toy shop to repair a broken mysterious mechanical man called the automaton that his father found in the attic of a museum. But, one day he gets caught by the toy store’s bitter old owner, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who takes his most valuable possession, a notebook with the schematics and instructions to repair the automaton. Hugo’s secret life of hiding in the walls and clocks, stealing to survive, and his most cherished possession, the automaton, are in imminent danger of being revealed. As Hugo struggles to fix the mysterious machine, the secret of the automaton and its origins deepens as he makes a new friend, Isabelle, the bookish, clever goddaughter of Georges, evades an inspector intent on sending him to an orphanage, and eventually finds his own place in the world.

I immensely enjoyed Hugo, which is now one of my favorite films of the year. The dramatic visuals showing Hugo’s narrow escapes and life in isolation really made me feel empathy for him. The light-hearted and joyful scenes such as when Hugo takes Isabel to the movies brings me joy for Hugo; whereas in poignant scenes such as when Hugo recalls his beloved father’s death made me sad. The story of Hugo is fantastic and well developed. The storyline incorporates messages about friendship, understanding, compassion, dedication, and the love of the cinema. I also like how the story shows the innocence of children. Hugo’s vivid 3D effects are incredible, where the images pop right out of the screen! I thought that the 3D really enhances this film in a way I did not see in other movies such as Happy Feet 2.

Hugo is a magical film, but I found some ways it could improve. First of all, Isabelle’s smile seemed a bit artificial, like when you smile for a camera. I also thought that in the scene where Georges thanked Hugo for helping him reawaken his filmmaking dream, I was expecting something more poetic and metaphorical, but George basically described exactly what happened.  This is a scene my mom and I both thought weakened the ending.

Hugo is such an amazing film, it is hard to pick out my favorite scenes!  My top two are when Hugo takes Isabel to the movies, and when the automaton suddenly springs to life as it begins to draw a mysterious picture. I especially liked the second scene, it is breathtaking to watch all the gears and wires begin to move in complex motions inside the machine. I felt transfixed by the automaton and its expressive face that seemed so alive. The author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, is actually a San Diego Resident!  I would love to interview him some time.

My fellow film critic and good friend Scott Marks who writes for San Diego Reader is probably the number one Martin Scorsese fan.  He once told me I will have to wait years before he could show me real, classic R-rated Scorsese films such as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.  I am glad that I don’t have to wait to see this first Scorsese masterpiece which I think deserves an Oscar nomination.

I give this film 4.5 starfish! I recommend this film to all ages. Hugo is a spectacular visual masterpiece and a delightful film for the whole family to watch over and over. With a suspenseful, fascinating story and wonderful 3D effects, I hope everyone adds this “Perrific!” film to their “must watch” movie lists for the holidays!

Moral: Everyone has a special purpose in life, but it may take years of persistence and determination to realize it.

Copyright 2011 by Perry S. Chen


Perry S. Chen is an award-winning child film critic, artist, animator, and TEDx speaker, currently in 6th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, Variety, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He writes movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog. (  He won an “Excellence in Journalism Award” from San Diego Press Club in 2010 and 2011 for his movie and restaurant reviews, an “Excellence Writer Award” from “We Chinese in America” Magazine in 2010 for his movie review column.

“Ingrid Pitt: Beyond The Forest” is Perry’s first film as the  sole animator. The film was acquired in Sep 2011 for worldwide distribution by Shorts International, distributor of Oscar-nominated shorts.  The film won a Special Jury Award – “Extraordinary Vision Award” at the Flyway International Film Festival in Pepin, Wisconsin in Oct 2011, and is touring numerous film festivals around the world. The film is among the 45 animation shorts officially announced by Animation Magazine & Animation World Network as 2012 Oscar contenders:

Perry also animated one scene in Bill Plympton’s award-winning “Guard Dog Global Jam.”  Perry and his mom Dr. Zhu Shen are featured in a new book about parenting and youth entrepreneurship, “The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids,” published in Aug 2011, available on

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Readers Comments

  1. Don R. Holloway says:

    I loved your review, Perry. It was very enjoyable, as always, and I’m really eager to see this film. I am a big fan of Asa Butterfield. If you liked him in this movie, then you should also see him in “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” and “Nanny McPhee Returns.” Thanks, Perry, for your great work. I’m looking forward to your next review.

  2. clock kids says:

    Hugo’s secret life of hiding in the walls and clocks, stealing to survive, I also like how the story shows the innocence of children. to “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” visit the official film website:

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