Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is based on the book of the same name written by Douglas Adams more than 20 years ago. The irreverent Monty Python-type story was quickly transformed into a British miniseries and later a popular computer game. Now itís a movie.
After the screening of this film I asked a few fans of the book what they thought of the film.
I discovered thatís like asking Trekies if they liked the first Star Trek.
H2G2 fans (as fans of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Universe like to be called) couldnít stop gushing over it, insisting they canít wait to bring a towel and see it again when it opens.
In H2G2 a towel is an important piece of equipment, but I wonít spoil the humor for those who arenít already H2G2 fans by telling you why.
Not having read the book, and considering the profound philosophical questions associated with this film, I was expecting an awe-inspiring Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-type odyssey on the outer fringe of the galaxy.
Instead, itís Monty Pythonís version of Carl Saganís 1980s television series Cosmos. This quickly becomes apparent when you listen to the narcissist president of the universe speak. He looks like a rock star and is dumber than a crab. Thatís when you start to worry that the film will fall into a black hole of banality.
Fortunately, it manages to bounce back and balance itself between comedy and thought-provoking science fiction in a unique self-deprecating sort of way.
The story begins with Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), a lonely man living in a wee cottage in the English countryside, who escapes the imminent destruction of the earth with the help of an alien (Ford Prefect).
They hitch a ride on a spaceship filled with alien bureaucrats called Vogons, who look like giant potatoes. Vogons are essentially government workers who run the Universe and are good at absolutely nothing. Every arbitrary decision they make requires a specific form, and the outcome is usually to the detriment of their constituents.
By the use of eminent domain, they implode the earth to make way for an unobstructed, intergalactic transportation pathway. Unfortunately, the mentally challenged president of the Universe thought he was signing his autograph for a fan and not an edict to obliterate the planet Earth. Itís a big Universe, things get lost in the shuffle and sometimes bad things happen to nice people.
Arthur and his alien friend meet up with the party-animal president with two heads, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell of Matchstick Men, Galaxy Quest), and his girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel, Elf).
This pair of misfits trek across the Universe along with Marvin, a faithful yet paranoid robot (voice talent of Warwick Davis, Galaxy Quest).
Poor Davis has been typecast by reprising the same morose personality he had in Galaxy Quest. Heís more useless than a Vorgon and less funny, too. Whereís R2D2 when you need him?
Be prepared for plenty of Monty Python surrealism and dry, sarcastic British humor. Fasten your seatbelts and fly from planet to planet via a new method of crossing interstellar space called the ďinfinite improbability drive.Ē
Youíll also hear the insights of a sperm whale falling through the atmosphere before he experiences an unexpectedly hard landing.
Watch a crab gleefully welcoming an alien ship he perceives as a liberator until the door opens, crushing him. Crabs donít fare well in this film.
Just ďdonít panicĒ and throw in the towel when you first see Mother Earth blown up. This is light fare not to be taken too seriously. Have a good laugh by noting which characters in this film remind you of people you know in real life.
Like the book Animal Farm, author Adams uses H2G2 to hold up a big mirror so we humans can see ourselves from a cosmic perspective.
And, to prevent any deer-in-the-headlights introspection on your part, thereís enough nonstop action, intelligent quips from animals and bizarre looking aliens to keep you alert waiting for the answer to the ultimate question: What is the meaning of life?