Musical Score By: Howard Shore

Distributed by: Howe Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Hugo, the 3D dramatic adventure film, is based upon Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  The story takes place in 1930s Paris and follows Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lives with his father (Jude Law), a master clockmaker.  After his father dies in a museum fire, Hugo goes to live with his alcoholic watch-making uncle (Ray Winstone) whose job it is to maintain all of the clocks in the railway station.  After his uncle teaches him how to care for the clocks, he deserts Hugo, leaving him to live behind the walls of the rail station, stealing food and working on his father’s last project, a mechanical man that his father had found and was hoping to repair before his tragic death.  With the help of a toy shop owner’s goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz), Hugo works to restore the mechanical man and reveal its hidden secrets.

            The musical score of Hugo was created by Academy Award Winning composer Howard Shore.  While serving as musical director for Saturday Night Live from 1975 to 1980, Shore began composing musical scores for film, amassing a diverse résumé.  Howard Shore’s credits include the musical scores for The Fly, Crash, The Departed, The Aviator, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Mrs. Doubtfire and more, but he is perhaps most recognized for his award-winning musical scores for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

            Since the story of Hugo is centered around a Parisian train station, Howard Shore decided to include some traditional French music in the soundtrack.  He inserted a French ensemble, featuring ondes Martenot, musette, cimbalom, tack piano, gypsy guitar, upright bass, a 1930s trap-kit, and alto saxophone, inside a full symphony orchestra.  This offers a layered sound with definite French undertones. 

            There were several things I enjoyed about this soundtrack.  I liked how Shore was able to incorporate the sound of the clocks, a very central part of the Hugo story, and the trains in the soundtrack.  And I did like the French music, which went a long way in establishing locale.  However, I found that this soundtrack was a tad bit on the boring side.  For an adventure film, I would expect a few more action tracks - the kind that pump your adrenaline.  Unfortunately, the soundtrack doesn’t really pick up pace until the very end.  I listened to the soundtrack twice and actually found myself falling asleep halfway through both times. 

            While the Hugo Soundtrack may be terrific when incorporated with the visuals, as a stand alone album, the music of Hugo turns out to be quite the snoozer.  My advice is to see the movie and how the music works with the story rather than waste money on the hour-plus length of music on this soundtrack.


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