© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis, John Malkovich, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry
Director: Garth Jennings
Writers: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick (based on Adam’s book)
Distributor: Buena Vista
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language
Running time: 110 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total Score – 6.2 out of 10
For years now, people have been speculating about how the HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY is going to translate to the big screen, even though there was the miniseries in 1981, adapted by the author himself. Well, Douglas Adams did it again, and this time with the help of a big budget and state-of-the-art CGI.
Arthur Dent (Freeman) is a common man living in a small town in England. As his house is being demolished to make way for a highway, his best friend Ford Perfect (Def) informs him that he is really an alien. To be precise, a researcher who is writing a new edition of the “Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy.” At the same time, the Earth is due for demolition as well. Seconds before the world is blown to pieces, Ford and Arthur hitch a ride on a Vogon starship and escape. They’re caught shortly, the get picked up the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell).
On board of Zaphod’s ship is the beautiful earthling Trillian (Deschanel), who doesn’t know Earth has been decimated. Accompanied by the chronically depressed robot Marvin (played by Davis, voiced by Rickman), Zaphod searches the galaxy for the ultimate meaning of life. Arthur has no choice but follow them, eventually having the grandest adventures of his life – not to mention a chance to undo the damage to Earth!
Freeman (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) is the perfect everyday man to play Arthur. His deadpan humor and geeky lovability serve the role well. His transition from a befuddled survivor to an unlikely hero is subtle but interesting. Deschanel (ELF) is sweet and charming as the object of Arthur’s affection. Her damsel-in-distress role has been beefed up to be more proactive and resourceful. Rockwell (CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND) is the same zany, self-parodying Rockwell we’ve come to expect and love. He gives Zaphod an interesting creepy/endearing edge. Def (THE ITALIAN JOB) plays Ford with apologetic glee. His character is at once wise and goofy, sort of a Jiminy Cricket-meet-Sebastian the Crab to Arthur.
Davis (RAY) dons a robot suit and slogs around like Humpty Dumpty, but it’s Rickman’s (HARRY POTTER) pathetic voice that gives Marvin a personality. Malkovich (JOHNNY ENGLISH) has a relatively small role as Humma Kavula, Zaphod’s bizarre political rival. Nighy (LOVE ACTUALLY) plays the planet-saver Slartibartfast with warm authority. Fry (HARRY POTTER III) offers a perfect God-like voice as the narrator.
To be honest, I’ve never read the book or seen the TV show. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the theater. I only knew it was going to be a funny-crazy ride. In that sense I’m not disappointed. The absurdity of the story is such that we must toss away our logic and look at this as somewhat an Alice In Wonderland in space. At times, it’s difficult for me to understand what the purpose of this film is, beside being a wild carnival ride. Notably, Adams did have an odd imagination, and the “wisdom” bestowed by the Hitchhiker’s Guide is tongue-in-cheek and often amusing (Oh, so that’s what a babelfish look like).
Director Jennings, whose only other credits include two video projects, seems to have a hard time keeping up with the material. The pacing is hectic and crazed, but not in a good way. Some scenes remind me of past fantasies such as THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, only lacking in finesse. There are some fantastic imageries, in particular the beautifully rendered scenes of the construction of Earth II. But over all, it is a busy production with plenty of inconsistency. If you’re already a fan of the books and shows, you’ll probably love this film. Otherwise, follow my guide: rent it when it comes out on DVD.