updated 12/13/2012 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/14/2012 AT 10:00 AM ET
The elegance of The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien’s rousing tale of Bilbo Baggins helping a passel of dwarves reclaim their mountain home is that the epic spans just a few hundred pages.
Moviegoers, on the other hand, could have first breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses in the nearly three hours it takes director Peter Jackson to deliver the first third of this trilogy in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. (Part 2 is slated for next year.)
It helps that the cast is so engaging, particularly Martin Freeman as Bilbo, a kind, fussy sort torn between the comforts of his divinely cozy hobbit hole and the promise of adventure.
And what adventure it is!
Bilbo, wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves take on Middle-Earth beasts in glorious 3D battles. (Note: Viewers prone to vertigo should see the film in the old-school 24 frames-per-second format.)
Like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is violent, but there are sillier bits meant to appeal to kids. Whether they can stick it out through elevenses is another matter.