“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is the latest in a long line of books with huge cult followings to be brought to the big screen. This movie is absolutely critic proof. Fans of these books will go see the movie no matter what anyone says about it. Furthermore, it is hard for someone who is unfamiliar with the source material to determine whether or not the movie will please the fans. Luckily, much like the Lord of the Rings films, this adaptation succeeds on its own merits to create an unusual, dryly funny, enjoyable movie experience.
The movie starts with a gut-bustingly funny montage of dolphins. According to the movie, dolphins are actually smarter than humans and the noises they make are actually prophecies of the end of the world. Sure enough, after a riotous musical number, we are introduced to Arthur (Martin Freeman), a normal man living in England. He is retrieved by his friend Ford (Mos Def) and told that the Earth is about to end. The Earth is indeed destroyed by an officious race of aliens called the Vogans, who need to make room for an intergalactic highway. Arthur and Ford manage to hitch a ride onto one of the Vogan ships and begin an adventure spanning several planets, which involves a search for the answer to life’s big questions.
Once again, as an outsider, it is impossible to say how closely the film follows the plotlines of the books, or even which ones it concentrates on. It is safe to say, however, that if nothing else, the plotline of the film is never boring. It moves quickly forward, introducing plenty of chances for former music video director Garth Jennings’ kinetic visual style to shine through. There is a constant flow of sight gags and set pieces floating in and out of the film, enough so that even the most fickle and ADD-afflicted viewer should remain interested.
Despite this, Hitchhiker’s Guide is not a strictly visual film. There is a heavy element of allegory to the story that seems like even more biting satire in this day and age. The Vogans are ruthless and painstaking. They strictly follow the rules, conquering along the way. Earth is allowed to be demolished because the idiotic, vapid president (Sam Rockwell) signed the bill thinking he was signing an autograph. So, unlike some recent special effects movies (like the Star Wars prequels, plus countless others), this movie exists for more reasons than just to string together a series of nifty effects shots.
The acting hits all the right notes as well. Mos Def, a rapper who deserves to be a movie star, delivers what should be his breakout performance as the comical alien sidekick. Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, John Malkovich, and Alan Rickman are all great as well, but for the most part, Mos Def has the funniest lines and scenes of the movie.
Non-sci-fi fans will not like this movie, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be crossover to non-Hitchhiker’s Guide fans. Anyone into sci-fi or dry, slightly offbeat humor should enjoy this and its inevitable sequels.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org