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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (October 3/05)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy proves that some novels just aren't filmable, although there does exist a slight possibility that those who are familiar with the source material might find something here worth embracing. But everyone else will undoubtedly be baffled and ultimately annoyed by the film's refusal to take anything seriously, a problem that's exacerbated by the emphasis on jokes and gags that just aren't funny.

Martin Freeman stars as Arthur Dent, a hapless everyman whose bad day (his house is scheduled to be torn down) gets worse when the Earth is blown up by an intergalactic demolition crew. Fortunately for Arthur, his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is actually an alien and the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a how-to book detailing the finer points of catching a ride in space). The two eventually wind up aboard a stolen ship being commandeered by the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), where Arthur is stunned to find a girl (played by Zooey Deschanel) he had a crush on back on Earth.

For a short while - say, the first half hour or so - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is actually fairly engaging, as the viewer is inundated with some exceedingly creative visuals and a genuinely intriguing storyline. But once the novelty of the whole thing wears off, there's little here to keep neophytes interested - particularly as the screenplay begins to emphasize stand-alone vignettes over a linear plot. As a result, it's not long before all of this becomes tedious, tiresome, and virtually impossible to follow; the movie makes less and less sense as it progresses, alienating all but the most diehard fan of Douglas Adams' book.

Aside from the fact that the majority of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes off as thoroughly meaningless and hopelessly inane, the movie's status as a comedy is questionable; the script (written by Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick) is packed with overly clever bits of supposed hilarity that come off as lame and disastrously unfunny. And though the film features a number of effective performances - Freeman, Deschanel, and Rockwell are wonderful, while Alan Rickman is just about perfect as the voice of Marvin the depressed robot - the bottom line is that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy just doesn't work.

out of

About the DVD: Armed with a widescreen transfer and a handful of bonus features, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy arrives on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The disc comes with two commentary tracks, a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and more.