directed by Martin Scorsesse
based on the book THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznik
reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Because my YA fantasy Two Moon Princess was published in 2007 the same year Brian Selznik’s THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET came out and the ALA (American Library Association) annual conference was in Philadelphia in January 2008, I was there when they announced THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET had won the Caldecott Award, the most prestigious award in Children Literature. 
Although mainly unknown then by readers, judging by their reaction, it was clearly a favorite among the librarians present at the conference. 
Now four years later THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET was made into a spectacular 3D movie by Martin Scorsese, the director that gave us Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, and the TV show Boardwalk Empire among many others.
Hugo, the movie, is cinematographically a stunning achievement. The settings are gorgeous, from the amazingly detailed recreation of a train station in the 1930s to the streets of Paris, from the world behind the walls and the workings of the clocks to the silent movies stages. 
Yes the movie is visually gorgeous, but I found the story itself seriously lacking. 
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET was a different kind of book. It was told both in images and in words. But it’s not a picture book, nor a graphic novels. The first 46 pages are drawings and the drawings tell the story.

A story its author introduces as follows: Paris in the 1930’s, a thief, a broken machine, a strange girl, a mean old man, and the secrets that tie them all together… Welcome to The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Whether the story works better in the book I do not know for I haven’t read it. But in the movie the plot seems far-fetched, an excuse to pay an homage to a time long gone when movies where so new, people ran screaming from the theater when shown a train entering the station. 
Despite his cuteness, I found difficult to believe a young boy could keep the clocks of the station running while keeping his existence a secret, or that the old toymaker in the store was related to the automaton his father rescued from the museum. 
And the life in the train station was, although so perfectly recreated, cliche and kind of predictable. 
But I am in the minority here: Hugo has won 11 Oscar nominations. Which means, many people love it.
And in Rotten Tomatoes, most critic praises it. Except for Wall Street Journal critic JOE MORGENSTERN who writes “Yet thematic potency and cinematic virtuosity (…) can’t conceal a deadly inertness at the film’s core.
Sadly, I agree with him.

Click below to watch Hugo’s trailer.