Peter Jackson is no George Lucas, Kurt Loder is happy to report, and his new Middle-earth prequel is no Phantom Menace. But the movie is a disappointment, and not only because it fails to equal the grand achievement of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy of a decade ago. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wanders and slumps and generally fails to engage. It’s a welcome entrant in the annual holiday box-office scrum—big and busy and often beautiful to look at. But it’s not what you might have been expecting, or hoping for.
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