The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Movie Review

Imagine the madcap sensibilities of Monty Python appliedto science fiction and you'll begin to have an inkling of the whimsicallyeccentric humor of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," anenormously successful cult-comedy franchise of which a new feature filmis only the latest incarnation.

The story of Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), a nebbish Englishmansaved from the demolition of Earth (to make way for a hyperspace bypass)by an alien he'd hitherto thought was a pal from Gilford, "Hitchhiker'sGuide" follows his very reluctant and frequently absurd adventuresin space.

In the first 15 minutes alone, Arthur and Ford Prefect(Mos Def) are jettisoned from one of the ships that blew up the Earth (afterbeaming aboard surreptitiously, being captured and tortured with alienpoetry), then against all odds they're rescued from the vacuum of spaceseconds later by a passing vessel with a warp drive designed to exploitjust such unlikelihoods -- the Infinite Improbability Drive.

Onboard Arthur is improbably reunited with Trish McMillan(Zooey Deschanel), a girl he fell for at a party some months before, onlyto see her run off with Zaphod Bebblebox (Sam Rockwell), a guy who claimedto be from another planet. Zaphod, even more improbably, turns out to beFord's whacked-out semi-cousin (they share three of the same mothers) whobecame president of the galaxy just so he'd have the necessary clearanceto steal this very ship (because he thought it was cool).

Oh, and did I mention that all this happens with poor,confused Arthur still in his bathrobe, before he could even get a morningcup of tea?

From this point on, things get a little weird.

Reinvented for the big screen by the late Douglas Adams-- creator of several hilarious "Hitchhiker's" novels, a 1970sBBC radio play and a low-budget 1980s BBC television miniseries -- this incarnation ofArthur's interstellar travels is designed to crack up both newcomers andfans while fiddling with the preconceived notions of Douglas Adams devotees-- and it succeeds wildly on both counts.

Narrated by the voice of the titular travel tome -- a tongue-in-cheekcomputerized encyclopedia on how to thumb your way through the universe-- and jam-packed with Adams' unique elements of silly sci-fi atmosphere,the plot meanders a bit and character arcs feel abbreviated, as if first-timedirector Garth Jennings needed another 30 minutes to really flesh themout. The movie also has a few awkward moments of Adams-askew incongruity,as when a crowd scene on an alien planet is inexplicably populated by veryEarthy surfer dudes and tank-top-clad buxom blondes.

But the filmmakers, while offering a completely originaltake on the material, are clearly disciples of the author's daffy spirit(several subtle "Hitchhiker's" in-jokes attest to that), whichcomes through perfectly in the overarching tone of chipper screwball humorand in the terrific performances.

Martin Freeman (from the original English version of thesitcom "The Office") is an ideal choice for the blindsided andperplexed Arthur. Although a major departure from the character in Adams'books, hip-hop artist Mos Def ("TheItalian Job") brings a space-smart, charminglycheeky, understatedly alien quality to Ford Prefect, who can't quite seemto grasp the rhythms of English sentence construction and thinks hugs arehumans' solutions to every problem.

Zooey Deschanel ("Elf")provides Trish (known as Trillian to fans) a sexy intelligence and appealinglyvulnerable temperament, and Sam Rockwell ("Confessions of a DangerousMind") is all Id as the hyperactive Zaphod, defined by his wannabe-rockerwardrobe and his hidden, even more insane second head that pops up to wreakhavoc from time to time.

The cast also includes John Malkovich as an interstellarevangelist (a character Adams created just for the film), Bill Nighy asthe off-kilter foreman constructing a new Earth (it's a long story), andAlan Rickman as the drolly gloomy voice of Marvin, a clinically depressedpint-sized robot who waddles half-heartedly around most scenes hanginghis giant head in woe. (Warwick Davis from "Willow" is in therobot suit and does a fantastic job of giving physicality to Marvin's blues.)

Enthusiastically odd, creatively amusing (the great specialeffects are often tapped as a source of comedy) and visually inventive(the bilious, bureaucratic, overweight, 8-foot aliens who destroy the Earthare brilliant creations of Jim Henson's Creature Shop), "The Hitchhiker'sGuide to the Galaxy" may not be a masterpiece of sci-fi, but it'sfantastic early-summer popcorn fun. Douglas Adams would be proud.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Starring : , , , , , , , , , Stephen Fry (voice), Richard Griffiths (voice), Ian McNeice (voice), Kelly Macdonland,

Comments

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, WIDE: Friday, April 29, 2005

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