The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – #MovieReview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey all you dungeon dwellers out there, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another movie for one of my 2021 challenges. This time I watched a movie with a dragon in it for my read-watch-play challenge. If you don’t know what that challenge is or you want to play along you can find all the details here. I decided to go with one of the most famous dragons of all time, Smaug who appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

If you have read this blog much at all you will know that it is no secret I enjoy fantasy. My favorite fantasy author of all time is J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the writing and the world he builds. Every time I read something of his I feel immersed in it and I am wrapped up in the story whether it is humorous, adventurous, whimsical or dramatic. To me it’s the kind of work that I would always want to see on film, after I have read the story.

I have to preface my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by saying I don’t hate this movie. My review might sound that way but it’s more accurate to say I hate parts of this movie. There are some wonderful things here that are hard not to like. Matin Freeman makes the perfect Bilbo with just enough attitude to make the character work. In my mind no actor will ever replace Ian McKellen as Gandalf and it brings my heart joy to see him reprise his role for this series. And the look of the film is gorgeous and it’s easy to believe the characters are standing in Middle Earth.

I like the opening although I have mixed feelings about having Frodo appear at all in this but the way that Peter Jackson connects the films is more or less fine.

I love the “Good morning” conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo and it plays out almost exactly like the book. I like the way the dwarves come to Bilbo’s door that plays out almost just like the book. I like the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum that plays out almost just like the book.

However, there is a lot in this movie to dislike. There are random character threads that were thrown in for no reason, there is a goblin antagonist that just feels tacked on, there are times when the film takes itself far too seriously and no one who made the film seemed to realize that since The Hobbit is 1. a single book and 2. much shorter than the Lord of the Rings books we did not need to stretch this out into three films.

I think I can sum up my main objection to this movie in a single word. Whimsy. If you read the book, it is chock full of whimsy. There’s a bit of adventure in there and a good dose of humor but whimsical is what the book is. That’s something that is nearly impossible to film. It’s hard enough to capture comedy at all but whimsy is elusive anywhere other than in a book. And in a book it’s still pretty hard to find. There simply is not enough whimsy in this film. There are moments of it, like when the dwarves are tossing dishes around in Bilbo’s house, although to be honest, even that feels a bit forced. The best example is Gandalf asking Bilbo, “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” The exchange establishes that Gandalf does not play by the common set of societal rules. The fact that Bilbo sort of goes along with it shows he has the potential to change but hasn’t done so yet. Then in the book he goes on this magical journey with colorful characters and it’s simply a great time all around. We didn’t need a tragic backstory overemphasized with dramatic music and helicopter shots to convey the feeling of the book. In fact that fights against the feeling of the book.

The film is still watchable, I just have to set aside the fact that it strays from the book so much. I understand that some people think that might be biased because movies can be better than books. In this case, I am not of the opinion the film is superior to the source material. I just don’t understand some of the choices that were made in the filming and it feels kind of like a manipulative money grab for anyone who was a fan of the Lord of the Rings films. I would have much preferred a shorter, more whimsical film that wasn’t trying to pull in an already established audience. I hope that at some point the perfect film adaptation of thee book is made but until then this is the closest we can get. You do have to slog through two more movies to get the whole story but again, it’s the best adaptation available.

If you decide to watch this movie or re-watch it if you have already seen it let me make one small suggestion. After you do so, go read the book and get swept up in the beloved children’s classic that will have a place in my heart forever.

Whimsically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Undercover Grandpa – Film Review

This IS your Grandfather’s action film

It’s not easy living in a dungeon alone, watching the worst films known to humanity and Undercover Grandpa is not helping the situation at all.

When the phrase Netflix and chill first became popular, the emphasis was definitely on the chill. Why? There was a time, before Narcos, Stranger Things and Black Mirror where most of what was on Netflix was absolute garbage. Now people get tied up in the Netflix and forget to chill at all. But fret not, those who want to chill once again, Undercover Grandpa is garbage on an unparalleled level. Trust me on this.

This film is about a random teenager who is about to go out on a date. He first has to drive his crazy grandpa back to his nursing home before he can get to said date. Unfortunately for the teenager, his date gets kidnapped by an on the run foreign dictator who has faked his own death. Fortunately for the teenager, his grandpa is not crazy, and really is a special forces guy who can totally take on the foreign dictator with the help of his very retired army buddies.

In the end, Grandpa beats the bad guys and teenager gets the girl and all the retired army buddies got to have their one last exciting mission. Assuming there is no sequel. Which is a very strong assumption.

The star of the film is James Caan who makes a career destroying performance that is about as far away from The Godfather as you can get. In the setup of the film Grandpa talks to the family about how he knew Colonel Sanders when he was just a private. The jokes get worse from there. Also, as a side note, according to Biography.com “Colonel Harland Sanders was born on September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana. At the age of 40, Sanders was running a popular Kentucky service station that also served food—so popular, in fact, that the governor of Kentucky designated him a Kentucky colonel.” This means James Caan (best known in my circle of associates as the dad from Elf) served in World War I if he knew this guy.

I know this was just supposed to illustrate how “crazy” grandpa was but if you are going to make up fake crazy, make up believable fake crazy ok?  

For reasons that are unexplained, this foreign dictator has been captured and taken to the United States. He’s a stand in for any generic dictator. And the dialogue they give this guy is so terrible. He yells at his henchmen for what felt like two minutes because he didn’t know the word troubles. My question during the whole thing was why these guys are even speaking in English in the first place? They are hiding from Americans, not trying to be them.

That’s not the only plot hole. For starters, the girlfriend is captured (I’m not using any specific character names because they were too vague and general to remember) for seeing that the dictator guy is alive. Why they don’t do the sensible bad guy thing and shoot her is beyond me.

The grandpa is also a secret agent and his special forces guys can get the job done. This film gives you the unique opportunity to see how low James Caan, Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Sorvino and Jessica Walter can sink. The answer? All the way to the bottom.

I kind of forget which guy was which but there is one grandpa who has a super old room sized computer that can hack into the 911 phone system, one who is a weapons expert with weapons that are surely not only illegal to own, but have literally no chance of still being operational (and some that certainly would be operational), and one who is a camouflage expert who seems to think dressing in a bad tree costume is what constitutes a disguise.

This old team, the “Devil’s Scum” were the best special forces around. And they get to move into action again because Grandpa, teenager, and teenager’s geeky tech sidekick (who is really barely worth mentioning) are able to figure out where the girl is being held.

At first they are excited to get together and do this. Then less than two minutes later, they don’t want to do this. Then they are convinced again to do it. How do they finally get convinced they should do it? Teenager goes on a rant about how his generation has it so good only because of men like his grandpa. The teenager speech sounds like a speech that a grandpa found on a facebook ad, I kid you not. It’s delivered with no conviction yet seems to convince all these guys to go into action.

Lucky for these guys, all of the action is at a very sluggish pace and lots of guys who are in their twenties or thirties never move as fast as any of these guys who are in their seventies. Even the one with the walker is faster than them.

In a series of ridiculously dumb plans, each grandpa gets captured by the bad guys until James Caan, the original grandpa has to come to try to rescue them. At long last, teenager and his tech sidekick come in to help. There’s a battle (I guess that’s what you call it?) and the good guys win.

But here’s the ridiculous. The grandpa with the walker is wearing this fishing vest with all the pockets filled with some kind of devices that have wires running out. He is not wearing any gloves and is using his metal walker. The bad guys ask this grandpa what is up with the vest. He tells them that they are spare batteries for his pacemaker. The idiot bad guys believe him of course. Then at the end of the fight, the grandpa lifts up his walker and electricity comes out of the ends of the walker and zaps four henchmen to the ground and they go unconscious. Let me just point out that’s not how pacemakers, walkers or electricity works.

The climax of the film is this battle. The teenager gets the girl. Then grandpa collapses and has a heart attack. All of us in the audience know he is faking it. It could not have been more clear to anyone with a pulse. But of course the teenager believes he has lost grandpa.

How can I describe the funeral scene? Okay so, not to spoil anything but if you have ever seen, I don’t know, a superhero movie where one of the heroes is dead and there are other people there and you can’t help but cry a little yourself because you liked that character so much… Yeah, this is not that. The teenager does what I would normally call an ugly cry. But it’s clear he is fake crying so it’s not an actual ugly cry. It’s perhaps the most bizarre crying performance I have ever seen. Is it a fake ugly cry? An ugly fake cry? Crying fakely ugly? I have no idea. But I thought about it for a long time.

Then to only the teenager’s surprise grandpa shows up again, lets teenager know he is not dead and that he will be off cavorting with the double agent lady in Florida. But teenager shouldn’t tell his mother about it. Grandpa also hints that he might be up for another mission if called upon.

To which I say – Please dear God no, isn’t it enough that there is a sequel to the Trolls movie coming???

I am going to end the review there but come back next week when I will review another Netflix dud, Locked Up.

Shoot, I forgot to mention the grandpa walking in the pond in a scuba suit. Ah well, maybe next time.

Despondently yours,

Slick Dungeon