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Ormond Beach Observer Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 5 years ago

'The Hobbit': Big looks, small ideas

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a light action-comedy, better suited for kids.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Let me start by saying that this review has absolutely nothing to do with “The Hobbit” book.

Whenever novel adaptations come around, it’s only a matter of time before people start comparing page to screen. But for me, the mediums couldn’t be more separate.

I couldn’t care less how much a movie deviates from its source material. You know how films started using the phrase “inspired by true events” instead of “based on a true story” to make room for variation? I grant adaptations the exact same license.

So, that being said, my disappointment with “The Hobbit” has everything to do with what happened onscreen, not off it.

“The Hobbit” takes place 60 years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings.” Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo (played by the great Martin Freeman), tags along on a quest to kill a dragon and take back the dwarves’ homeland.

Like its predecessors, it’s a three-hour movie. And even though it’s only based off of one book, there are two sequels on the way.

But here’s the problem: “The Hobbit” strives to be the start of another classic American epic, but there’s so much less on the line here than in The Trilogy. If Frodo and the gang failed, good would die forever and the world would end. It was that simple. But if Bilbo and the gang fail, nothing changes. The dwarves still don’t have a home.

But who really cares about the goofy dwarves, anyway?

The promotional material for this flick is also big on Golum, as if it were his story. But out of 169 minutes, he’s maybe in 20. It’s not his story. And it’s not Bilbo Baggins’, either.

The story is the drawves’, who make for much better comic-relief side-characters than main ones. (Check out the poster with all the dwarves packed together. I can’t help but think of the pin-up for “The Muppets.” They’re basically mirror images.)

So “The Hobbit” has a cartoonish feel about it. It’s one long fight scene followed by another long fight scene. There’s not the same undertone of horror that there was before, either. And with such lower stakes, some of The Trilogy’s grandeur is gone.

After more than the nine hours of the “The Lord of the Rings” (11 hours if you count the extended director’s cuts), “The Hobbit” begs the question if what we really need right now is another day in Middle-Earth.

And so far, it’s not giving a lot of good reasons why we do.

Critical mass

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (PG-13, 169 minutes)

Director: Peter Jackson

Released: Dec. 14

** ½  (of five)

“The Hobbit” is fun to look at but not much to watch. If you didn’t make it out to opening night, your kids will love the spectacle. But spectacle’s a lot cheaper on Netflix.

Rotten Tomatoes         65% fresh (of 212 critics)

IMDB 8.7/10 (of 50.646 fans)

Richard Roeper           C+

Peter Travers   ** ½ (of four)

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