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DIRECTOR: Garth Jennings RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2005 RATING (US): PG
CAST: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel et al.
// review by Beverley

Someone needs a guide to movie adaptations!

The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy is a nostalgic high school favourite of mine, and probably a favourite of any sci-fi fan who enjoys Monty Python style humour that evokes the random and unexpected as well as the more philosophical side of life. I have to confess, however, that I would never have read the trilogy of five if it weren't for the particularly horrible 2005 film adaptation. I know I have a tendency to give movies and games fairly positive reviews, but there are some special occasions when I find myself in the mood to rip into this utter turd of a movie.

For those who haven't seen it, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is about a man, Arthur Dent, who escapes Earth before it is destroyed and tours across the galaxy uncovering the mysteries of the universe with his friend Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the obnoxious president of the Galaxy, and Trillian (Formerly Tricia McMillan of Earth), his brainy and adventurous crush.

For starts, people who have never read the entire trilogy with care assume the Hitchhiker's Guide is merely a collection of random events thrown together for the sake of humour, and therefore is really kind of dumb. If you've actually read the entire trilogy with care you recognize the story is merely elaborate and very sophisticated, but this film only adds to the dumbing down of this book.

Firstly, the director skips important parts of Adam's carefully crafted dialogue to do a hat dance around the cheap fanboyisms. Can you imagine if a movie was made about Portal and they spent 4 minutes on a musical segment about "The Cake is a Lie"? That is basically what Garth Jennings did with the four minute "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" segment at the beginning. He might as well have walked on screen and said, "Hey guys, I just want to let you know I'm a real fan of this book because I get the most mainstream overused joke in here. Let me show you some footage of dolphins with a song I wrote about it so I can establish what a try-hard I am and how much you are going to hate this."

This leads into the next thing that irritated me: time usage. You can't spend 4 minutes on one joke if the movie is an hour long. The clock was up to 13 minutes by the time the main characters even got off Earth. That's one quarter of the movie gone without even meeting all the main characters. Oh yeah — or the title screen! The movie is ¼ over before you even see the name of the movie you are watching.

One of my smaller beefs was with the effects. Marvin (the depressed robot) and the Vogons (the dullest aliens in the galaxy) look as though they were made by Jim Henson, which one would think would work for a comedic sci-fi, but it really ended up ruining the tone. The camera work was mostly pretty conservative (except the amazing shots of Magarathea) and for the most part worked fine.

By far my biggest problem with the movie was the number of side plots that were inserted so the director could cut corners on the original story while trying to keep it coherent. The biggest one was Zaphod's beef with Humma Kavula, the losing presidential opponent. I can't find this anywhere in the book, but it allows the director to lose Beeblebrox's second head (cut the special effects budget) and develop a MacGuffin that literally hands you character development on a silver platter: the "Point of View Gun". Laziest writing ever!

Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) was like an even cheesier Owen Wilson, which, while it suited the book, was a little hard to swallow. Ford Prefect (Mos Def) didn't meet his character description in the slightest (which is a shame because I would have loved to see his almost inhuman large-mouthed smile and stretched back face), but Mos Def nails his mannerisms. Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) is true to her character, being bright, outspoken, and adventurous. I have to confess, though, this movie does not pass the Bechdel test and Douglas Adams is unfortunately responsible for that.

In sum, this movie really did not do justice to Douglas Adams' great book. The writers' hubris to deviate the plot so far from the original, thinly patching bits over and cutting away so much, ended up like some horrific creation from Lady Gaga's wardrobe — and I mean that in a negative un-fun un-science-fiction-y way. So perhaps not like an item from Lady Gaga's wardrobe at all. Even though it was horrid I would still see the full trilogy of five even if they were all just as bad as this, but still, boo! How dare you sully Adams' work?!


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