By Jeffrey Westhoff comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 /__uuid/490fb5ad-8100-4e46-9256-49ca99ae1b03/thehobbit.jpg new

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Rated PG-13: Frightening images and extended sequences of intense fantasy action and violence
Running time: 2 hours, 49 minutes

Who’s in it: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis

What’s it about: The hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) joins Gandalf the wizard (McKellen) and a company of 13 dwarves in a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland from an invading dragon. They encounter monstrous obstacles in the first leg of their journey.

Verdict: From the opening frames we are back in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth, and it’s a comfortable place to be. So comfortable, it is easy to overlook many of the film’s flaws. The idea that Jackson would turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s slim children’s novel into a three-film epic is nuts, but the first of these films is entertaining enough, even when the padding shows in a narrative nearly three hours long. Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis) is a showstopper. Avoid seeing the 3-D version shown at 48 frames per second, because it makes an expensive movie look as cheap as a 1970s BBC production.