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THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
U.S. Release Date: April 29, 2005
Distributor: Buena Vista
Writer: Karey Kirkpatrick
Producer: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman
Composer: Joby Talbot
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, John Malkovich, Alan Rickman (Voice), Warwick Davis
Running Time: 1 hour and 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (thematic elements, action and mild language)

Absurdist Sci-Fi Comedy Strictly for Literary Series' Fans
by Scott Holleran

Thumbing its nose at everyone but fans of the book series upon which it is based, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy leaves the uninitiated—including this reviewer—stranded in outer space. Beginning with a bizarre sequence about dolphins and the end of the world, which is depicted with narration, animation and song, it is an inaudible, incomprehensible chaos, with a point that there is no point in having a point (which is its self-refuting point). Welcome to the universe of the absurd.

The popular Hitchhiker books were written by the late British writer Douglas Adams, who wrote for television programs like the frantic Doctor Who and the irreverent Monty Python's Flying Circus, known to millions of public television viewers. His cheeky science fiction humor is said to have been influenced by director Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and British humorist P.G. Wodehouse. To say it's more HAL than Jeeves is putting it gently.

There really isn't a plot as such. Ordinary Englishman Arthur (Martin Freeman), trying to enjoy a cup of tea, is incensed when bulldozers arrive at his house to clear it for a freeway. As he resists, Arthur's affable best friend (Mos Def), an alien, informs Arthur that Earth is about to be vaporized by Vogons—a slothful version of Star Trek's Klingons—to make way for an interstellar freeway. This is what passes for irony and it is intended to be hilarious. But, middle-aged Arthur—who is barely there even when he is—has no apparent interests, work or lasting relations with other human beings. Given such a flimsy character in this whimsical set-up, the journey hardly takes off.

The batch of weird characters includes Arthur's rival, a two-headed president of the galaxy (Sam Rockwell) who's a cross between George W. Bush and a gaudy rock star, Arthur's Earth girl crush (Zooey Deschanel) and Hitchhiker's Guide's most likeable character, a depressed robot voiced by Alan Rickman. The robot, the president, the girl, the friend and Arthur band together to wander the cosmos, turning into vegetables and looking for a planet that may or may not exist. Add to all this such lessons as Don't Think, Man is Puny and Insignificant and rubbish about whales, mice and petunias and you have a drug-induced remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for Libertarians.

Hitchhiker's funniest bit comes in the form of a space gun, invented by wives, that instantly makes the victim understand everything from the shooter's perspective. If only the Hitchhikers could aim it at the audience. The picture's look is too realistic for its absurdist tone, characters are superficial, and, from a purposeless towel to the Don't Panic rule, inside jokes run amok. Oppressive sound obliterates one's ability to hear dialog, which picks up a few chuckles.

Among the outlandish creatures is John Malkovich as a creepy cult leader and Helen Mirren as the voice of a giant thing that's supposed to provide an answer to any question in the universe and, of course, does not. There are no answers—there are no proper questions—there is only the sound of forced laughter for its own sake. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, missing a blast of Galaxy Quest's sci-fi parody, plays tediously to its base.


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