5.03.2005

So long, and thanks for all the fish...

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines "movie" as a frenetic, light-based entertainment diversion enjoyed by the "Human" species of the planet Earth, and also, in a bizarre coincidence, by the Purple-Spotted Neenerbobs of Omicron Persei 8. It seems that a series of photo images, played in rapid succession, with accompanying audio stimulation, is enough to occupy the Humans' limited imaginations for a Friday night. Tickets for one of these programs, if lined up end to end, would stretch from the dreaded industrial planet of Vachon to the outer rim of the Demonoid system.

The Purple-Spotted Neenerbobs of Omicron Persei 8, however, use movies strictly to occupy the empty minds of their mental patients and those in a persistent Hyper-Snooze.


Kelsey and I went to go see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Friday night at the Ridge, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Okay, not really, but we did deliberate on where to eat for what seemed like an eternity, and once we decided to try Charcoal Grill, the wait there was almost an hour, so we drove around some more. We eventually ended up at the Atlanta Bread Company, which, interestingly enough is located in New Berlin, WI. I'm assuming it's a chain, or the founders are really confused. Either way.

Onto the movie. I had my doubts about this one, as I do with almost any adaptation, but I was more anxious about this than I would be about Harry Potter or something. First, the Hitchhiker's series is both very intelligent and very British, two things that do not normally fly in Hollywood comedies. Hugh Grant is very, very British, and yet he normally needs a Middle-America friendly costar like Julia Roberts, whose appeal I still cannot understand, despite months of isolationist meditation. And while occasional crossovers like Monty Python and The Office have success in the states, they tend to remain cult or niche titles. So my main concern with the Hitchhiker's movie is that the producers would feel the need to dumb it down for American audiences, perhaps even to the extent to pass it off as a kid's movie. This is Disney, after all.

But I was pleasantly surprised.

For the uninitiated, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is a sci-fi action comedy series, originally a BBC Radio show, later adapted into novels, a miniseries, videogames, and now a movie. It tells the story of Arthur Dent, an average guy whose life is changed when the Earth is blown up, and he is saved by his best friend Ford Prefect, who happens to be an alien researcher for the titular Guide. Their misadventures throughout the galaxy are recorded in the five books in the Hitchhiker's series, which is where I think this movie comes up short. This is not a Lord of the Rings situation, where the sequels are assured and are being filmed right away, so the filmmakers must have felt the need to wrap up all the loose ends in one movie, in case there is no sequel. So there are some liberties taken with the material, but since creator Douglas Adams had a hand in the script before his death in 2001, I can't really complain. It's his baby, after all. I just didn't care for the ending. Swipe the paragraph below for an explanation...

SPOILER SWIPE

I really, really disliked that this movie had a "Hollywood ending" with Arthur and Trillian making out and all that. It's totally out of character of the books, since there is more to the story, and Arthur's happiness is the quest. I understand that I guess they need to wrap up story arcs for general audiences to be happy, but I don't buy it. Have her make out with Zaphod while Arthur looks on longingly. The guy doesn't always have to get the girl, Hollywood. Get with it.


END SPOILER SWIPE

Outside of that small issue, I had a lot of fun watching Hitchhiker's. It's got a great theme song (see posting title), and a lot of hilarity. I was impressed with pretty much everyone in the cast, especially Sam Rockwell as President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox. Rockwell has a talent for making the most out of a quirky role, as evidenced in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Charlie's Angels, and his overall surfer-dude goofiness was pitch-perfect in this movie. (Although Kelsey did get it right when she said it seemed like he was doing an Owen Wilson impression at times.)

There's a bunch of great actors in small roles as well, including Bill Nighy, Helen Mirren, Thomas Lennon and Alan Rickman in voice roles, and of course, the MALKOVICH. Who can defeat MALKOVICH? YOU? HA! Plus, they used some of the original music from the BBC miniseries, and popped in a cameo from the original Marvin robot. Again, this is not stuff that Joe Moviegoer is going to appreciate, but I sure do.

I found myself laughing a lot, which is often good enough for me. Even a mediocre movie like Dodgeball, I laughed a lot, so I liked it. Hitchhiker's was better than that, though, as it's not just a stupid Farrelly Brothers flick. It remains, for the most part, true to the vision of Douglas Adams, and makes you think in between laughs. I know that sounds clich´┐Ż, but it's true. So Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy gets a B.

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