Lately, Peter Jackson movies feel like being presented with an enormous buffet stuffed to the brim with rich, tasty delights… and then having the waiter pull a gun on you and making you eat all of it. It’s undeniably tasty but past, say, the third course you stop tasting the food and just focus on shoveling it down to get this done.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, unfortunately, is not a change in pace.
Here’s the problem with the first Hobbit movie: It’s three hours long and covers maybe 100 pages of the book.
Worse, most of it is unnecessary. Funny, engaging, well-made, but an hour of this movie could be dumped on the cutting room floor and nobody except the most hardcore fan would ever miss it. This movie should have been an hour and a half, if Warner Bros. was forcing Jackson to turn out a trilogy to make more money instead of just the one damn movie this needed to be. There will, in fairly short order, be entire scenes of this movie with Monty Python’s “GET ON WITH IT!” bit cut in all over YouTube.
It must be said that The Hobbit is not the greatest book ever written and this insistence on staying true to the word of the book brings that into focus with a vengeance. The story suffers because Jackson is unable or unwilling to just get his ass in gear.
Or perhaps this is Peter Jackson getting revenge on every fussy nerd whining about Tom Bombadil not being in the first movie. You can practically imagine him, sitting there in his editing suite, thinking “Criticize me, will they? Whine about how I made a crappy movie because it’s not literally page to screen, will they?! I’ll show them! Here it is, you nitpicky little trolls! EVERY! LAST! WORD!”
That said, it is nice to see Jackson’s facility with comedy hasn’t atrophied; this is often a very funny, if sometimes slapsticky, flick. Part of this is Martin Freeman, who ably anchors the film and in fact shows a sprightliness and cheeriness he almost never gets to deploy. Bilbo is an intelligent, fun-loving kind of guy here, and Freeman is part of the reason the movie never drags.
Overall, it’s a fun movie but it’s not the revelation the first Lord Of The Rings film was. It’s a good movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon, so if you’ve got one of those coming, plan accordingly.