Perhaps it was Rayner Unwin who summed it up the best. As the ten year old son of publisher Sir Stanley Unwin, he was the first person to write up a review of The Hobbit in 1936. Here is what he had to say:
Bilbo Baggins was a Hobbit who lived in his Hobbit hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his Dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exciting time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich! This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.
Though I am no longer between the ages of 5 & 9, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and at times I liked it better than the more in depth LOTR. I only regret that I didn't read it sooner. So if this is one of those books that you have been putting off, don't wait. Read it now!
There is a live-action version of The Hobbit currently in the works. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is acting as producer with Guillermo del Toro directing. There is speculation on which actors will be reprising their roles from Lord of the Rings, but the names that are being tossed around include Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Ian Holm (Bilbo), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Christopher Lee (Saruman). It is supposed to be divided into 2 parts to be released in December 2011 and December 2012.
There is also a 1977 animated version of the story starring Orson Bean, Cyril Ritchard, Hans Conried and John Huston. It has been simplified from the original story, but it does include many songs based on many of Tolkein's poems. It has been YEARS since I have seen it, so I can't give any real opinion of it.