You know when a film opens with dolphins singing about the end of the world in a song called “So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish” you are in for something… special. This weekend was not the official beginning of summer, but it was the opening of the summer movie season. First up on this summer’s list of big budget adventure films was “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Adapted from Douglas Adams’ series of novels of the same name, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a mix of cynicism, existentialism, sarcasm and all other types of “isms” to create two hours of sophisticated humor. First-timer Garth Jennings gets the job done nicely as director. Filling out the cast of galactic adventurers are Zooey Deschanel (“Elf”) Mos Def (“The Italian Job”) and Martin Freeman (“Love Actually”). Sam Rockwell (“Matchstick Men”) absolutely steals the show in his role as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Part “Star Wars” part “Alice In Wonderland,” this comedy desiccates with some of the driest British humor since the likes of Monty Python.
The story starts out with the introduction of Arthur (Freeman). He is a simple human who is trying to, coincidentally enough, save his own house from evil British contractors who want to build a highway through it. At that moment Arthur’s friend Ford (Def) tells him of Earth’s imminent destruction by evil alien businessmen and his actual identity as an alien who is researching humans. The two split their last pint and the adventure begins. After escaping the clutches of aliens who like to bore their victims to death with poetry, the two friends find themselves on board the spaceship of Beeblebrox (Rockwell). The ship is commanded by the eternally depressed Marvin, the paranoid android. Interestingly, Marvin is brought to life inside by “Willow” star Warwick Davis and voiced by Alan Rickman of “Dogma” fame. Beeblebrox is the single-and-ready-to-mingle president of the galaxy. Rockwell is pee-your-pants funny as he spouts sexual innuendos and airhead one-liners, not unlike those of our own president. Onboard, Arthur meets the only other human survivor Trillian (Deschanel). The relationship between Freeman and Deschanel constitutes the love interests in the film, but like most things in the film, the constraints of time limit how much of that story line gets developed. So, the whole crew sets out to find the ultimate question to the universe… in order to find the ultimate answer. The film switches story lines violently like a blind rhinoceros. You can feel the chapters of the book in between cuts and scene changes. The film does an excellent job of capturing the wit and humor that made Hitchhiker’s the literary phenomenon it is, but at times it seems the film bit off more than it could chew. Grateful applause goes out to the costumers and special effects people who decided not to take the George Lucas way out. It is a delight to actually see 7-foot-tall aliens that fart aerosol cans and Marvin brought to life by actors in suits rather than computer generated characters. One exceptional sequence comes when the full panorama of the screen is used to show the factory where planets are customized and built.
All said and done, the movie is fun-filled and enjoyable. Nothing will really get you rolling in the aisles, but you will leave with a smile on your face. The special effects are top notch and the acting isn’t that bad either. If this film is an indication of the kind of summer films we should look forward to, it’s going to be a good year.