thumbs up, down, or out?

We saw the “Hitchhiker’s Guide movie”: over the weekend, as you might have guessed. I liked it a lot, and so did Karen. I can imagine we’ll watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

Of course, we also watched and liked “The Pirate Movie”: this weekend, so we’re probably not the most stable reviewers around. Read on if you’re also a silly sort.

…because a silly frame of mind is necessary to watch this film. If you’re expecting a plot, character development, or an ending that makes any sense at all, this is not the film for you. This includes fans of the books, because the depth of a book forced all the silliness to coalesce into something resembling a plot with character development. A movie barely has the depth to do that in the best of circumstances, so a film like this never had a chance. I checked my cinematic standards at the door.

If you haven’t read the books, listened to the radio series, watched the TV series, or played the computer game, all you need to know is that it’s a silly space farce with a lot of interesting ideas and some seriously zany characters. Think of a cross between “The Muppet Show” and “Men in Black” and you’ll have enough information to go on. You can safely skip the rest of this review.

Sam Rockwell is a wonderfully demented Zaphod. (I didn’t mind the way they did his second head; I never really got a chance to miss it.) Mos Def is a surprisingly good Ford, injecting just enough weirdness to be alien without being, well, Zaphod. Alan Rickman *is* Marvin. Zooey Deschanel’s Trillian doesn’t quite come across as an astrophysicist, but she makes Arthur’s love interest believable and the Trillian-Zaphod banter is fun to watch. Martin Freeman does Arthur justice, and I liked that he’s less of a total prat than in the other incarnations. You can actually root for this guy without being constantly embarrassed.

The brightest spot in the film was Bill Nighy’s Slartibartfast. He’s exactly the kind of person you’d expect to be a planet builder: a bit wizardly, a bit geeky, and completely understated about the awesome powers he has at his disposal. If sequels are made (and I for one hope they are), they would do well to feature old Slarty.

The biggest disappointment was John Malkovich’s Humma Kavula, a character Douglas Adams created specifically for the film. Unfortunately, it seems like he was created just to give the characters somewhere to go and something to do, because he certainly doesn’t add anything else. There ‘s a running gag about the Great Green Arkleseizure, but it wasn’t nearly funny enough to justify a whole section of the film.

The best eye candy is the ship itself. It goes mostly unexplained, from the odd eye motif to the dozens of identical white buttons and levers, but it’s beautiful. The Improbability Drive effect is hilarious, and the interior looks like something straight out of Logan’s Run. I can’t wait to get a closer look at the details once it’s out on DVD. The Guide itself is also well-realized, although it would have been useful to anchor it further by showing Arthur access it more than once.

One thing that was made obvious by the film is that there isn’t nearly enough time to do justice to the material. Since there’s no chance of getting the principal actors together for a TV series, it would at least be nice to see a trilogy completed, assuming they could get someone decent to write the scripts. I wouldn’t necessarily want a rehash of the books or radio series, but it would be wonderful to follow these characters again and see them grow. As with the Harry Potter series, later movies could concentrate more on story and character because the main elements have already been introduced. The three together would then be much stronger than the one movie alone.

Anyhow, if I didn’t scare you away from seeing the movie, post a comment once you’ve seen it and let me know what you thought.

One thought on “thumbs up, down, or out?

  1. Saw it tonight. I liked it more than Glen did. (Spoilers ahead) We had a small, but very animated audience. One person clapped loudly when the earth was destroyed, and several people in the back seemed to near death from laughter in the scene with the poor, poor whale (I remember that bit in the book made me sad – it was just too unfair).

    I thought Sam Rockwell played Zaphod with just enough Bush to bring out a nice level of familiar cowboy idiocy. Seriously. He sounded like W more than half the time and I appreciate that. Mos Def is great. I saw him in the HBO movie Something the Lord Made (with our boy Rickman) and it was incredible. Worth renting.

    I loved the ship and the probability drive, and I’m a big fan of Deep Thought, especially when she started watching cartoons. I love her head-in-her-hands design.

    Karen, can you knit us some of the characters from the knit-oriented improbability?

    I thought the Malkovitch character/storyline was interesting, but it was religion oriented, so…. I LOVED his creepy glasses.

    In short, I liked it a bunch.

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