The Christmas blockbuster bloat has begun, and so far, we are one up and one down, way down. First the bad news, the first Michael Ritchie Sherlock Holmes was a plotless, frenetic wreck, so they had to make a sequel. But did they have to do it so blandly and lacking in any wit or substance? If I remember correctly, Conan Doyle's brilliant detective depended on his wits and his use of logic, not his brawn. In SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, director Ritchie continues his absurd use of slow motion, stop action, Kung Fu, you name it. The only interesting character is his Dr. Watson, played with intelligent humor, by Jude Law. Again, these two play the protagonists as a love-hate bromance. Robert Downey, Jr., the least British Sherlock I have ever seen or heard, is reduced to pratfalls and lame jokes. Go at your own risk!
Now for the good news. Martin Scorsese, that great director of mean streets movies (GOODFELLAS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL) and a leading force in film restoration, has produced and directed HUGO, based on the imaginative graphic novel of the same name. HUGO takes place in the early 1930's where the title character lives in a secret garret above a huge train station. His father has taught him the love of inventions and movies, but, when he dies, Hugo is forced by his alcoholic uncle to run all the clocks in the station. Fortunately the old drunk wanders away, and Hugo has the run of the place for himself, except for the police guard who is always on the outlook for derelict children he can send to an orphanage.
Hugo has two life-changing encounters in the station, one with an imaginative girl and the other with a mysterious old toy seller(the great Ben Kingsley). To tell more of the plot would spoil it.
However, Hugo and his new friend Isabelle have a great adventure, giving Scorsese the freedom to exploit 3-D in its best incarnation since AVATAR. The kids are chased up and down the machine-like innards of the towers and the clocks in dizzying tracking shots. The sets, costumes, and decor all convey the beauty of a tintype of Old Paris and we see many of the great monuments in a magical light. The two young actors are perfectly cast and give touching performances. Scorsese loves movies, and this is his valentine to the art he has given so much devotion and talent. DON'T MISS HUGO!