Monday, June 9, 2008

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (Garth Jennings, 2005) On first impression (and that was in the majestic Cinerama Theater for a matinee) the big budget movie version of Douglas Adams' radio play/novel came off as hurried and a bit slip-shod. One wanted it to run at half-speed to appreciate the jokes (we'd heard, seen and read a hundred times before) in this new context, but no, the little punks who'd made this were so comfortable with the material, and so comfortable with our knowledge of it, that they felt they could just rush it on by willy-nilly, and expect us to catch up despite the fact that we were carrying the deluxe popcorn with two drinks and a box-candy for later, maybe.

But revisiting it now on video, one has to say..."Yeah, nice job spiffing it up a bit." Of course, all it may take for you to like it might be the inclusion of your favorite bit from the
radio play/book/mini-series (in which case, I was satisfied--they included the sperm-whale bit, which I always thought was a fine, cheerful/melancholic distillation of life), and since it's a very breezy encapsulation (see first graph) odds are you might feel the loss of a passage or three. Still it's a nice forest, even if a few of your favorite trees have been culled.
What's good? Generally, the cast, with
Martin Freeman's "Dent, Arthur Dent" being a wonderfully down-played version of the character--the tv version with Simon Jones (the original Arthur--he has a fine cameo in the new movie) being a bit more Pythonesque (everything's a bit more Pythonesque in the tv series version)--Mos Def, a more off-center Ford Prefect, Bill Nighy a great Slartibartfast, Helen Mirren as "Deep Thought," Alan Rickman as the downcast robot Marvin, and Stephen Fry as the Voice of the Guide. The stand-out is Sam Rockwell who plays Galaxy President Zaphod Beeblebrox as W. with accelerated ADD (and isn't that a terrifying concept), and one has to admit that the filmmakers came up with a nifty solution for the two-head problem (Zaphod has them) that has plagued past productions. And you couldn't ask for a better beginning to the film.

All well and good.

Zooey Deschanel is a bit creepy as Tricia/Trillian (but then, she'd have to be), and there's an extended segment with John Malkovich which might have gone under the knife to include a couple more Guide entries, and the ending's a bit neat and tidy for an Adams adaptation, but really, I can't complain (except for that last bit), and the advanced design by Jennings and CGI-wizardry-gone-bizarre are full of little surprises right to the last jump of the Improbability Drive. Cheerful and friendly, while chirping about dark, dark things,
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a nice addition to the ever-expanding Library of all-things-Adams.

Now if they'd just do "Restaurant at the End of the Universe."

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