THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
***1/2 (out of 5)
April 29, 2005
Martin Freeman as ARTHUR DENT
Mos Def as FORD PREFECT
Sam Rockwell as ZAPHOD BEEBLEBROX
Zooey Deschanel as TRILLIAN
Alan Rickman as MARVIN
John Malkovich as HUMMA KAVULA
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Directed by: Garth Jennings
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I don’t know how many times I’ve written a review of a film made from a book and had to preface my comments with a note that I never read the book. But finally, here’s one that I had read before. While this sometimes is insignificant to my opinion, when it comes to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it is extremely important.
I read the book about ten years ago, and while I wasn’t a great fan of it, I appreciated it. In fact, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking that the humor would make a great little film. Like Shakespeare, Douglas Adams’ humor really needs to be performed rather than read. There was a certain delivery in the lines that I just missed in my internal monologue. So, I was pretty excited for this film – but wary at the same time.
With that in mind, I thought this film was an incredibly worthy retelling of the book. It kept up with the same flavor and humor, and it was a relief to finally see a version that had special effects that stood up to the concepts in the book.
I never finished reading the trilogy. By the third book, I felt things just deteriorated into a hodgepodge of silliness without any real story, not that the other books were particularly plot heavy. At least the first book had an attempt at a story.
Fans of the book will no doubt love this movie. It captures the spirit of Douglas Adams perfectly. There are scenes in the movie that I remember visualizing as I read the book. The only real fault is that there isn’t much of a story. But that goes back to the original book. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has always been weak on plot and character development.
The filmmakers try to inject some additional plot elements into the movie, with the post-mortem blessing of Douglas Adams. However, they’re trying to strengthen something that isn’t the strong point. I’m okay with a thin plot, especially for this film. If you haven’t read the book, you might not “get it.” But I’ll clue you in. There really isn’t anything to “get.” That’s the whole point. That’s 42.
There are many parts of this movie that are unbelievably funny. In general, the cast has good chemistry, although I was somewhat disappointed with Sam Rockwell’s performance as Zaphod Beeblebrox. He just didn’t seem to have his heart into the character. Maybe he just wasn’t British enough.
Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent wasn’t spectacular, but that was partially the point of his character. Dent was always a somewhat drab and mundane individual. He was always supposed to be extreme normalcy juxtaposed against the insanity of the universe. Zooey Deschanel is adorable in this movie, but then again I’ve always had a soft spot for her. She’s has a beautiful everyday Sarah Polley quality to her on screen.
However, there are some performances that are absolutely brilliant. In many scenes, Mos Def steals the show as Ford Prefect, the alien writer who saves Arthur Dent’s life. Def has a habit of showing up seasoned actors in his roles – from “The Italian Job” to “The Woodsman” – and he does the same thing here. But the real hilarious performance comes from Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, the clinically depressed robot.
I don’t know if “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is going to stand up to the test of time, but I really enjoyed it. The effects were great, and it was nice to see some quality model and puppet work to replace all the ridiculous and shabby CGI creatures we’ve seen too much of in the past.
Ultimately, the fans are gonna love this movie. It’s what they’ve been waiting for. When you head out do see it, don’t panic and always bring your towel.
(If you “got” that last line, you’ll like the flick. If not, read the book first.)