Even people who can't read or don't know what books are know that J. R. R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit" is much lighter than his "Lord of the Rings" series. It's shorter, more whimsical and more directly aimed at children. But does that mean the movie is suitable for kids? It is being brought to us by the same creative team who made the "Lord of the Rings" films, after all, which were often rather intense and had a lot of scenes of hobbits smoking weed.
As a public service, I am here to help you determine whether "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is right for your pre-teens. Here are my qualifications: I don't have any children, I've never read "The Hobbit" and I don't really care what movies your kids see as long as they're well-behaved and not in the same theater as me.
OK! Let's go!
Take your kids to see "The Hobbit" ...
... If they tend to enjoy movies about magical creatures such as dwarves, trolls, hobbits, wizards and Christopher Lee.
... If you're OK with the kids seeing a few decapitations and a lot of stabbings. (Don't worry, though: There's no sex.)
... Because what else are they going to see this week? "Hyde Park on Hudson"? "Wreck-It Ralph"? Well, OK, that would actually be a good suggestion if they haven't seen it. But if they HAVE seen it, then what else are they going to see this week?
... If they are serious fans of Ms. Cate Blanchett, who is ravishing as always in the role of Galadriel the Very Serious Elf Lady.
... If they read the book and liked it. Seriously, any kid who reads an entire novel solely for pleasure deserves to see the movie if he or she wants to. That will be my policy when I have children, in whatever dark future that occurs.
... If you think they'll get a kick out of dwarves throwing things at each other, which is essentially what the movie consists of.
... And drop them off. Boom: three hours to yourself.
Do NOT take your kids to see "The Hobbit" ...
... Unless you're ready to commit to taking them again next year, and again the year after that — three hours each time — so they can see the whole story. "The Hobbit": the gift that keeps on taking.
... If they disapprove of Peter Jackson's controversial use of the 48 frames-per-second shooting format, which has been hotly debated on school playgrounds nationwide.
... If you are not made out of money. Have you seen what an IMAX 3-D ticket costs? The 2-D version is cheaper, and probably looks about the same. You get one less D, so what? Will kids even sit still with those 3-D glasses on anyway? All the kids I know are squirrelly. The glasses would be off in 10 minutes.
... If you're concerned about the traumatic effect of seeing a nearly naked Gollum gambol around a cave in vivid, 48fps 3-D. Those images are difficult for adults to process, let alone young children.
... If they have trouble telling dwarves apart, or if they think all dwarves look alike. This movie will not help. Also, your children are racists.