Director: Garth Jennings
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel,
Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Stephen
Fry, John Malkovich
Released By: BVI
Date: 2 June 2005
Panic . . . Stick out your thumb to join the most ordinary
man in the world on an extraordinary adventure across the
universe in the hilarious comedy, “The Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy.” Earthman Arthur Dent is having
a very bad day. His house is about to be bulldozed, he discovers
that his best friend is an alien and to top things off, Planet
Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace
bypass. Arthur’s only chance for survival: hitch a ride
on a passing spacecraft. For the novice space traveler, the
greatest adventure in the universe begins when the world ends.
Arthur sets out on a journey in which he finds that nothing
is as it seems: he learns that a towel is just the most useful
thing in the universe, finds the meaning of life, and discovers
that everything he needs to know can be found in one book:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I must confess that I’ve never read Douglas Adams’s
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” despite
its overwhelming reputation. While I was nonetheless immensely
tickled by the idiosyncratic humour of the movie, I will probably
be unable to compare this adaptation with the original works
and determine how faithful it is. Regardless, the review must
go on, the world will trudge along, so on and so forth, all
I can say is, don’t panic, relax, and (try to) enjoy.
those similarly unfamiliar with Adams’s work, “The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is an offbeat
comedy that revolves around Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman),
a small-town English lad seemingly content with his quaint
existence as an Earthman. His sudden galactic adventure begins
when all of Earth is destroyed safe for his best friend Ford
(Mos Def), an alien, and himself. Their hitchhiking initially
brings them to a hostile Vogon ship, and eventually to a ship
carrying the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam
Rockwell), Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), an Earthwoman and Marvin
(Warwick Davis, voiced by Alan Rickman), an android suffering
from chronic depression. Zaphod’s search for the answer
to “the ultimate question of life, the universe, and
everything” brings the quintet to even more planets
where they meet increasingly strange creatures, the most prominent
being cult-like religious leader Humma Kavula (John Malkovich).
largely British cast shares a natural rapport, and each actor
is as perfectly cast as the next. Sam Rockwell as the double-headed,
tripled-armed Zaphod is rather grotesque though suitably annoying
while Mos Def is a delight to watch as the resourceful Ford
Prefect. John Malkovich is as menacing as menace gets, with
some CGI work cranking up his usual creepiness by a full notch.
The deadpan Bill Nighy is Slartibartfast, surprisingly effective
in his awkward antics. Alan Rickman is wonderfully hilarious
as Marvin, who elicits more laughs (and affection) than any
other characters. As narrator and voice of the guide, Stephen
Fry’s marvelous timing and crisp delivery sets a perfect
tone for the film, that is, a predominantly British tone.
However, the narration fades away towards the end of the film,
perhaps at a great cost. The special effects are noticeably
less slick (in other words, less Hollywood) but equally effective,
my favourite sequence being the choppy zoom-out of Earth before
its systematic demolition.
I think that “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
is one of the more entertaining movies I’ve seen in
a few months. The quirky jokes, often lifted directly out
of the books, are stunningly offbeat and extremely funny.
The pace is brisk and cheerful; yet, perhaps in the attempt
to appeal more commercially, certain slapstick moments may
have dulled the astuteness of the original writings. Plotlines
specially created for the screenplay, such as the romantic
developments between Arthur and Trillian, are half-hearted
and too vague to gather emotional investment, which is a pity,
since the quiet chemistry between Freeman and Deschanel seemed
the movie plays like a reading of the books’ best lines,
a convenient medium with which to display Adams’s legendary
wit. Indecisive direction resulted in a shift of focus from
the narrative to the characters, a move that would have worked
if not for the meandering way the characters were handled.
Funny, but not nearly as funny as it should be, this adaptation
lacks the oomph it deserved. Sure, it probably hit more than
it missed, but who cares for namby-pamby strikes?
by Angeline Chui
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