230 – The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Don’t panic. This is not as cheesy as the 1980s BBC miniseries, but it’s also not as Hollywoodized as one might expect. That means you purists out there, you Douglas Adams fanboys and girls, aren’t going to be disappointed, and those of you who have somehow avoided reading any of the Hitchhiker books won’t be confused.

On a perfectly otherwise-ordinary Thursday, Briton Arthur Dent awoke to see a bulldozer about to knock down his unimaginative house to make way for a bypass. And that, as it turned out, was the most believable thing to happen to him from then on, as he winds up traveling across the galaxy, encountering numerous weird characters and huge leaps in logic. With him is his longtime friend Ford, who up until that day Arthur had thought was simply an out-of-work actor. Turns out Ford’s a researcher for the Guide of the title, and he’s able to rescue Arthur from Earth before our fair planet is obliterated to make way for a bypass.

Why bother with more plot details than that, really? That’s all you need to know. Arthur is Everyman, and everyone else is incredibly odd. But not so odd that your brain’s not proportionally entertained. And entertained you will be! Check out some of the fun stuff the future apparently holds. There’ll be these tiny fish that can translate any language after you put them in your ear. Fantastic! And then there’s another device that detects what you want to eat by analyzing your mind.

Now, I’ve read all of the books, and I’ve seen the miniseries, and I’ve even listened to the old radio play (on tape, remember those?). Yes, there are some differences – they couldn’t cram everything from the first book into one movie – including the addition of a character. But fret not, Douglas Adams himself made these changes, and they feel rather seemless. So that’s a huge plus. And if you did see the miniseries back in the day, you might recall how woefully low-budget the effects were. Ah, this time around the Infinite Improbabilty Drive looks VERY improbable, indeed.

The movie manages somehow to capture the spirit of the books, which is no small feat when you consider how absurd the original plot really was. Plus, there’s that omnipresent dry British wit, but somehow THAT comes across as well.

The entire cast is excellent, but I particularly loved Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android. Perfect, absolutely as I’d imagined him to be. “Life… don’t talk to me about life,” moans Marvin. It’s also fun to watch Mos Def as Ford, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod, and the ethereal Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, with her big eyes and flighty charm. No, really, they were all simply smashing. As you can see, it’s the kind of movie that makes you talk all Englandian.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: ***



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