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May 3, 2005

An incomprehensible "Guide"

by Grace Harter, Page Editor
Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is having a bad day. A really bad day. His house is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a bypass andówouldn't you know itóso is the entire planet. Bummer.
Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

Fortunately, Arthur's best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is around to warn him and grab them a ride on the next spaceship off the planet, just as Earth is destroyed by the Vogons, an alien race that isn't particularly mean, just as long as they don't read you their poetry.

Thus begins Arthur and Ford's adventure through the galaxy, where they are picked up by a spaceship piloted by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and his girlfriend, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). Trillian also happens to be a girl Arthur (unsuccessfully) tried to pick up at a party he had attended back when Earth was still in existence. The galaxy is just full of strange coincidences and implausibilities, especially since the characters are riding a ship fueled by an Improbability Drive. Their ultimate quest is to find the question to "life, the universe and everything," especially because they've got an answer: 42.

If any of this seems confusing, that's because it is. Take it from a reviewer who has read the books many times: the movie is near incomprehensible. Characters and worlds, while highly imaginative and fun, flit in and out of the movie so quickly it's hard to keep them straight. And then there's the myriad distracting storylines, some of which aren't entirely resolved (sequel, anyone?).

Director Garth Jennings seems to have bitten off more than he can chew. Douglas Adams, the writer of the "Hitchhiker" series, was able to pull off his madcap series because of his dry British wit and unlimited space book world afforded him. Jennings has tried to cram the book's storyline into a film under two hours. It simply doesn't work.
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" has its saving graces. Def as Ford is comically brilliant; he pulls off the dry one-liners with polish and manages to be the funniest character in a film full of funny characters without resorting to slapstick, over-the-top humor. Equally talented is Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, the manically depressed robot. Marvin's grim predictions and comically gloomy demeanor are a highlight of the film.

The aliens and spaceships are all wonderfully creative and keep with the zany atmosphere of the film. The Vogons have probably the most highly imaginative spaceships, ones that look almost like dull metallic bricks flying through space (not every alien drives a snazzy flying saucer). Everything about the creatures is hilariously dull, from their obsession with procedure to the grimy, bland interiors of their buildings.

One of the best sequences in the film is when the characters visit a group of people who manufacture planets for a living. Earth, we learn, was actually created by these people and a replica is being made to replace it. Genius Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy) takes Arthur on a wild ride through a partially constructed Earth where we see legions of workers creating mountains, fjords and deserts to mimic the original planet.

Fans of Adams's series won't be disappointed but they probably won't be thrilled. Audience members new to the "Hitchhiker" series may want to pick up a copy before goingóit's a fun but confusing ride.

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (110 minutes) is rated PG for thematic elements, action and mild language.



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  • Max Lockwood on May 4, 2005 at 6:45 PM
    I found the movie to be quite funny.
  • Anonymously Liberal on May 5, 2005 at 11:33 AM
    Of course the plotlines go insane. That's how it's supposed to go. It's Douglas Adams.
  • dear liberal on May 10, 2005 at 8:48 PM
    well then clearly douglas adams sucks at writing
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