The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy (6/10)

by Tony Medley

A long time in coming, The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy (HGC) first saw life on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 as a part sci-fi space odyssey, part satirical comedy, and part inquiry into the nature of life by Douglas N Adams, who had studied English literature at Cambridge, and was a comedy writer who had worked with Monty Pythonist Graham Chapman. So successful, he turned it into a book that became sort of a cult classic in the late Ď70s early Ď80s. Maybe itís not a cult because the publisher claims sales of more than 16 million in the last quarter century. Now, courtesy of Disney, Director Garth Jennings and screenwriters Adams (who died of a heart attack in 1998 shortly after completing the second draft of a screenplay) and Karey Kirkpatrick, who was brought in after his demise to make Adamsí script more acceptable, it sees the light of day as a film.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), whose house is about to be torn down to build a freeway, is spirited away on a spaceship seconds before the destruction of the earth. Clothed only in his robe and slippers, this starts him on a quest with his alien friend Ford Perfect (Mos Def) and the girl he desires, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) to find the meaning of life. From what I remember of the book, and I didnít read much, I donít recall a romance. Regardless, it diminishes the movie because itís so silly.

The movie is a devastating satire on bureaucratic idiocies, epitomized in the bad guys, the Vogons, who are described as ďbureaucrats of the universe, armed with awful poetry.Ē They are hateful and ugly.

The peripatetic quest takes him from one corner of the universe to the other, all satirical and with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Accompanying them is Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the two headed Galactic President. Among those filling out the rest of the cast are Jim Hensonís puppets, who present Star Wars type creatures too horrible to describe.

One of the puppets who is well translated from the book is Marvin the Paranoid Android, built by Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. He is always miserable and looking to make the worst of any situation. Without a mouth, he always looks miserable because he always ducks his head and has a negative throw-away line about all the things that occur.

I must admit I wasnít a fan of Adamsí book. I heard about it, got it, started it, and couldnít finish it. But I can see that if you did like the book you should love the movie because itís imaginatively produced.

This is a light hearted journey though the universe with lots of jokes. I didnít think the satire was that clever, but others might disagree with me. Iím hedging on this review because even though I wasnít enthused about it, I can see how others could love it. Itís on the cusp. I thought the script was disjointed and didnít make much sense. But thatís probably what they were shooting for. It is nonsense, but itís aiming for a goal about the meaning of life. And to make their point, they couldnít have been logical. Even though I wasnít thrilled with it, it could be a hit.

April 26, 2005