Publicity Stills of "Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy"
(Courtesy from BVI)

Genre: Sci-Fi/Comedy
Director: Garth Jennings
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, John Malkovich
RunTime: -
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG

Release Date: 2 June 2005

Synopsis :

Don’t 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.

Movie Review:

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.

For 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).

The 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.

Honestly? 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 potentially affecting.

Alas, 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?

Movie Rating: B

Review by Angeline Chui

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