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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (***)
Directed by Garth Jennings
Written by Douglas Adams (book), Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick (screenplay)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Principal Cast
Martin Freeman -- Arthur Dent
Sam Rockwell -- Zaphod Beeblebrox
Mos Def -- Ford Prefect
Zooey Deschanel -- Tricia McMillan ("Trillian")
Bill Nighy -- Slartibartfast
Anna Chancellor -- Questular Rontok
John Malkovich -- Humma Kavula
Warwick Davis -- Marvin the Paranoid Android
Alan Rickman -- Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice)
Stephen Fry -- The Book (voice)
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

It is not as bad as you feared nor as good as you hoped, very different from any other version, but with a lot of the same lines. The movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy essentially adapts the first book with the cards shuffled, a few cards borrowed from other decks, and quite a few wild cards. Douglas Adams wrote the movie script. I suspect the new material set on Vogsphere is his. Then Karey Kirkpatrick rewrote that script, presumably to make it more commercial. Whose idea it was to turn this into a love story, I do not know. Quite possibly Adams', considering the love story at the heart of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. There is also a lot of foreshadowing, while the radio series was made up as it went along -- brilliantly made up. If you have not yet listened to the radio version, available on CD, you've missed the best part.

The film opens with some beautiful pictures of dolphins. My heart beats faster. Hope springs. And then, the dolphins break into song, quite possibly the worst song ever to be performed in a movie. "So long, so long, so long, and thanks for all the fish. So long..." It goes on interminably, and I'm almost ready to write the movie off as a total loss, when I hear the familiar and nostalgic strains of the radio theme song, and I'm back in my seat. It is like that all the way through the film. There are some funny bits -- mostly old vaudeville one-liners. There is some beautiful photography and some wild special effects. There are familiar quotes about the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal. And then things sort of go dull for a while. Arthur and Trillian stand around looking insipid. Then there is a big action sequence. Then another funny bit.

High points include Charles Laughton as Prosthetic Vogon Geltz, the little jeweled crab creatures, the handling of Zaphod's two heads, Marvin looking pathetic. Low points are the mumbled dialogue and low key acting which combine to prevent anyone who has not read the book from having any idea what is going on.

In radio drama, since there are no visual references, every line is spoken crisply and clearly. Even a character playing a drunken bum plays an articulate drunken bum. In an effort to distance the movie from the radio drama, everybody here is a Marlon Brando protégé, mumbling their lines, missing a beat, looking aimlessly around as if wondering where the teleprompter went.

The Book -- well the Book is done in an imitation of the limited and stylized animation of 50s television. This may be better than the busy busy busy animation of the Hitchhiker TV series. (If you look quickly, you'll catch a glimpse of the TV Marvin in a crowd on Vogsphere.)

And the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel, in the unlikely event that the movie actually turns a profit.

It could have been so much better. It could have been so much worse.

Stay for the mid-credits cookie.

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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