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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

UK/USA 2005
produced by
Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, Jonathan Glickman, Douglas Adams (executive), Robbie Stamp (executive), Derek Evans (executive) for Hammer and Tongs, Everyman Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment, Touchstone
directed by Garth Jennings
starring Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Anna Chancellor, Alan Rickman (voice), Helen Mirren (voice), Stephen Fry (voice), John Malkovich, Mark Longhurst, Kelly MacDonald, Ian McNeice (voice), Jack Stanley, Albie Woodington, League of Gentlemen (= Steve Pemberton, Mark Gattis (voice), Reece Shearsmith (voice)), Simon Jones, Richard Griffiths (voice), Thomas Lennon (voice), Bill Bailey (voice)
screenplay by Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick, based on the novel by Douglas Adams, music by Joby Talbot, creatures by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, visual effects by Cinesite

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes up to approaching bulldozers about to destroy his house ... but that's nothing to the news his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) has to tell him, that the earth about to be destroyed by the Vogons, a violent and humour-free race of bureaucrats, and the only hope for Arthur is - Ford, the hopeless and eccentric unemployed actor ... who isn't really an unemployed actor at all but an alien and a journalist for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book about just that. And just as earth is about to be flown up, Ford hitches a ride for him and Arthur in the Vogon spaceship ... but when the Vogons discover the stowaways, they expose them to Vogon poetry, then throw them out into open space - where they are picked up just in time by Zaphod Beeblebrox' (Sam Rockwell) spaceship with the improbability drive, and as improbable as it is, Zaphod is Ford's cousin while his companion, earth girl Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), is the girl Arthur's madly in love with.

Zaphod, it turns out, has stolen his ship while he was president of the universe, and now he's a hunted criminal, with the Vogons beind especially intent of killing him. But Zaphod, arrogant as he is, has a mission (for whatever reason), to find the question to the answer of "the Life, the Universe and Everything", which for some reason is "42". But before our heroes reach the planet where the computer has been built to deliver that question, they have to evade the Vogons (who eventually snatch Trillian, whom Arthur manages to safe by beating their bureaucracy), have a (pointless) run-in with Zaphod's rival for the title of president (John Malkovich), and have to endure Marvin the paranoid android (Warwick Davis, voiced by Alan Rickman). Finally our gang makes it to the planet Magrothea, where they learn from the only Magrothean not in hibernation, Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), that the computer they are looking for to spit out the question was actually earth, but as it had been blown up 5 minutes before the answer was found after 10 million years of running time, the true rulers of the earth, the mice, ordered a new earth to be built ... but now that they have a live specimen, earthman Arthur Dent, they figure they'd just extract his brain and - but of course, mice are small and Arthur isn't, and eventually they are squashed, then the Vogons are beaten for good, and Slartibartfast announces he'll just finish building Earth Mark 2 ... oh, and Arthur gets the girl.

Stephen Fry serves as narrator, Helen Mirren is the voice of the computer who planned earth.

 

To turn Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a big budget feature film certainly has its attraction as a mere idea, but it has also many challenges: First of all, the book is very episodic, second of all, it's full of little details that are so far-out they need loads of explanation to really work, and third the book relies heavily on its language - all three components that are not at all cinematics. But just throw long-winded explanations and linguistic eccentricities out of the window for a busload of special effects, a crowbared in lovestory and a pointless happy ending was not actually a good idea. Plus the film isn't nearly as well cast as it could have, Mos Def proves he's not much of an actor and his comic timing is poor, Sam Rockwell's over-the-top portrayal of Zaphod is just too over-the-top for even this role (but he's not all helped by his hairstyle and wardrobe) and the usually dependable Martin Freeman just seems to be unable to find into his rather emptily written character.

That all said, the film is no total disaster as many of the fans of the book like to make one think, there are some good parts too, like Alan Rickman's voicework as Marvin, or of course the narration by Stephen Fry, and the Vogons certainly look cool ... but that's hardly enough to make the film more than mediocre, and especially to make it more than a missed opportunity.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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