Whenever this movie suffers from lengthy prequel-itis and a weighty sense of expectations, it falls short. Still, for much of its 165 minutes, this epic has enough small moments and deft touches that it tugs you along with the power of a good story.
When the dwarves turn up mob-handed, kicking off a night of boisterous revelry, the laboured jests and jollity seem to go on forever. And the combination of dwarves, forced humour and familiar faces off the telly turn the occasion into bad panto.
A marvel of filmmaking wizardry and engrossing adventure storytelling, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey marks another triumph by director Peter Jackson who once again takes J.R. Tolkien's words and brings them to life with skilful, passionate expertise.