Hugo is an orphan boy living in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. He learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father and uncle which he puts to use keeping the train station clocks running. The only thing that he has left that connects him to his dead father is an automaton (mechanical man) that doesn't work without a special key. Hugo needs to find the key to unlock the secret he believes it contains. On his adventures, he meets George Melies, a shopkeeper, who works in the train station, and his adventure-seeking god-daughter. Hugo finds that they have a surprising connection to his father and the automaton, and he discovers it unlocks some memories the old man has buried inside regarding his past.
I have a love/hate relationship with this film. I love it because the 3D imagery is gorgeous, and it's set in France and the girl in here (who's my favorite character) mentions Sydney Carton and Jean Valjean and Robin Hood. I hate the plot and I dislike almost all of the characters (including Hugo himself). The first time I watched it, I found nothing to like about it (I didn't catch the Les Mis reference and I thought the 3D film was weird) but the second time around (just today, actually), I caught a few things that made me like it.
I mentioned jokingly to one of my siblings that perhaps this movie should be sold as a companion to Les Miserables (2012). The main character's name is Hugo (the dad of one of my friends thought the movie was the life of Victor Hugo when he first heard the title), it's set in France, Isabelle mentions Valjean and Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier in the Les Mis movie, in case you didn't know) is the station inspector. So it's pretty well connected to Les Mis :)
The biggest problem I had with the plot was that they discovered the secret of the automaton too soon. I believe that the movie would have been better had the driving point of it all been what the secret was. Instead, it's discovered relatively quickly and the rest of the film is actually sort of pointless, in my opinion. It's almost entirely reminisces about Meleis film-making, which I found interesting, but didn't make for a very intriguing plot line.
But enough of my movie snobbery :P Would I watch Hugo again? Definitely. Aesthetically, it's a beautiful film and I love all the little subplots, especially the one between Lisette and Gustave - their friendship/romance was really sweet and I loved the little touches throughout the movie. Hugo had its moments of humor, charm, sadness and romance. Although it's not the best film I've watched, I did enjoy it and I'll watch it again, I'm sure.
"There's nothing wrong with crying. Sydney Carton cries. Heathcliff too. In books they cry all the time." ~ Isabelle, Hugo (2011)