The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie review, Garth Jennings, Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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SPIRIT 'GUIDE'
A scene from 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
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"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
3 stars
110 minutes | Rated: PG
WIDE: Friday, April 29, 2005
Directed by Garth Jennings

Starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman (voice), Anna Chancellor, John Malkovich, Stephen Fry (voice), Richard Griffiths (voice), Ian McNeice (voice), Kelly Macdonland, Jason Schwartzman



 PRODUCER INTERVIEW
Read our interview with NAME Producer and long-time Douglas Adams friend Robbie Stamp talks about creating the film


 COUCH CRITIQUE
 SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 45%
 WIDESCREEN: A MUST

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, "HG2G" doesn't feel as sharp and Douglas Adams-y on the small screen as it did in theaters. It might be a culmination of small things, like that on a second viewing, Sam Rockwell's performance as Zaphod Bebblebrox seems less naturally outrageous and more like he's just under-rehearsed and winging it. But Guide fans who waited for video may be underwhelmed.
 DVD SPOTLIGHT

This DVD is such a disappointment of weak commentaries and lame bonus features that there must be a special edition in the works somewhere.

The making-of is purely promotional (it even begins with footage from the TV commercials) and provides only cursory, press-kit information and shallow, "Entertainment Tonight"-quality interviews and behind-the-scenes materials. And it's incredibly sloppy work to boot: The included clips from the film are in the wrong aspect ratio, so everyone looks stretched out and skinny.

What's worse is that, with the exception of the producers' canon-heavy commentary track (with Douglas Adams' friends and business partners Robbie Stamp and Sean Solle), there's nothing here for hardcore "Guide" fans. Throughout the bonus features and commentary tracks, very few mentions are made of the changes Adams made to his screenplay from the books, TV show and radio serial -- when that should have been an extra unto itself!

Mentions are made of great screen tests, but we're shown only 10 seconds of one. Mentions are made of Hammer and Tongs, without any explanation of what that means (it's the company owned by the director, famous in Britain for animation and music videos). There are only a few deleted scenes on the DVD, but there's mention of many others. So where are they? The cast and crew clearly had a great time making the movie, so how about some entertaining bloopers?

And why on earth are there no features on the special effects (Zaphod's second head, anyone?), the creation of Marvin, and the Vogons built by Jim Henson Creature Shop? Why isn't there a featurette on all the references to Adams and all the film's in jokes (like the cameo of the Marvin from the BBC miniseries)? The list goes on...

Adding insult to injury, none of the movie's trailers is included -- not even the now-infamous internet trailer that mocked the very nature of movie trailers themselves.

The only touch of creativity that went into making this DVD package comes in the form of an "Improbability Drive" button on all the menu screens. Push it, and it cues up a random feature or chapter - or at least it seems random. Once you've played with it enough, it becomes clear even this feature is a letdown. It always plays the same features in the same order.

What a huge disappointment.


OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
A smattering of deleted scenes, an additional Guide entry, a "So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish" sing-along, an Easter Egg of the cartoon Deep Thought is watching when Zaphod and Ford visit her, and, in a total waste of disc space, a "hangman" game in which Marvin's body falls apart as you pick wrong letters.


  BUY IT HERE
SOUND & PICTURE
2.35:1, Dolby or DTS 5.1 Surround (w/ THX)
Crisp transfer and good sound.
DUBS: French, Spanish
SUBS: English, French, Spanish

DVD RATING: **



 OTHER REVIEWS/COMING SOON
 
  • Martin Freeman
  • Mos Def
  • Sam Rockwell
  • Zooey Deschanel
  • Bill Nighy
  • Warwick Davis
  • Alan Rickman
  • Anna Chancellor
  • John Malkovich
  • Stephen Fry
  • Richard Griffiths
  • Ian McNeice
  • Kelly Macdonald
  • Jason Schwartzman


  •  LINKS for this film
    Official siteShowtimes
    at movies.yahoo.com
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Big-screen version of sci-fi comedy classic is a delightful departure that would do its late author proud

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Imagine the madcap sensibilities of Monty Python applied to science fiction and you'll begin to have an inkling of the whimsically eccentric humor of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," an enormously successful cult-comedy franchise of which a new feature film is only the latest incarnation.

    The story of Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), a nebbish Englishman saved from the demolition of Earth (to make way for a hyperspace bypass) by an alien he'd hitherto thought was a pal from Gilford, "Hitchhiker's Guide" follows his very reluctant and frequently absurd adventures in space.

    In the first 15 minutes alone, Arthur and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) are jettisoned from one of the ships that blew up the Earth (after beaming aboard surreptitiously, being captured and tortured with alien poetry), then against all odds they're rescued from the vacuum of space seconds later by a passing vessel with a warp drive designed to exploit just such unlikelihoods -- the Infinite Improbability Drive.

    Onboard Arthur is improbably reunited with Trish McMillan (Zooey Deschanel), a girl he fell for at a party some months before, only to see her run off with Zaphod Bebblebox (Sam Rockwell), a guy who claimed to be from another planet. Zaphod, even more improbably, turns out to be Ford's whacked-out semi-cousin (they share three of the same mothers) who became president of the galaxy just so he'd have the necessary clearance to steal this very ship (because he thought it was cool).

    Oh, and did I mention that all this happens with poor, confused Arthur still in his bathrobe, before he could even get a morning cup of tea?

    From this point on, things get a little weird.

    Reinvented for the big screen by the late Douglas Adams -- creator of several hilarious "Hitchhiker's" novels, a 1970s BBC radio play and a low-budget 1980s BBC television miniseries -- this incarnation of Arthur's interstellar travels is designed to crack up both newcomers and fans while fiddling with the preconceived notions of Douglas Adams devotees -- and it succeeds wildly on both counts.

    Narrated by the voice of the titular travel tome -- a tongue-in-cheek computerized encyclopedia on how to thumb your way through the universe -- and jam-packed with Adams' unique elements of silly sci-fi atmosphere, the plot meanders a bit and character arcs feel abbreviated, as if first-time director Garth Jennings needed another 30 minutes to really flesh them out. The movie also has a few awkward moments of Adams-askew incongruity, as when a crowd scene on an alien planet is inexplicably populated by very Earthy surfer dudes and tank-top-clad buxom blondes.

    But the filmmakers, while offering a completely original take on the material, are clearly disciples of the author's daffy spirit (several subtle "Hitchhiker's" in-jokes attest to that), which comes through perfectly in the overarching tone of chipper screwball humor and in the terrific performances.

    Martin Freeman (from the original English version of the sitcom "The Office") is an ideal choice for the blindsided and perplexed Arthur. Although a major departure from the character in Adams' books, hip-hop artist Mos Def ("The Italian Job") brings a space-smart, charmingly cheeky, understatedly alien quality to Ford Prefect, who can't quite seem to grasp the rhythms of English sentence construction and thinks hugs are humans' solutions to every problem.

    Zooey Deschanel ("Elf") provides Trish (known as Trillian to fans) a sexy intelligence and appealingly vulnerable temperament, and Sam Rockwell ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") is all Id as the hyperactive Zaphod, defined by his wannabe-rocker wardrobe and his hidden, even more insane second head that pops up to wreak havoc from time to time.

    The cast also includes John Malkovich as an interstellar evangelist (a character Adams created just for the film), Bill Nighy as the off-kilter foreman constructing a new Earth (it's a long story), and Alan Rickman as the drolly gloomy voice of Marvin, a clinically depressed pint-sized robot who waddles half-heartedly around most scenes hanging his giant head in woe. (Warwick Davis from "Willow" is in the robot suit and does a fantastic job of giving physicality to Marvin's blues.)

    Enthusiastically odd, creatively amusing (the great special effects are often tapped as a source of comedy) and visually inventive (the bilious, bureaucratic, overweight, 8-foot aliens who destroy the Earth are brilliant creations of Jim Henson's Creature Shop), "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" may not be a masterpiece of sci-fi, but it's fantastic early-summer popcorn fun. Douglas Adams would be proud.






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