If you have not read the excellent Hitchhiker’s books by Douglas Adams I would recommend closing this web page immediately and reading through at least the first book. No, it is not necessary to understand this review, I just think you ought to do it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy project was announced and I both cringed and felt joy at the thought of a motion picture finally being made from the Hitchhiker’s books. My joy was crushed when I learned Disney was behind the effort, then hope was partially restored when I learned Arthur Dent would be played by Martin Freeman, a decidedly unknown, but very British actor. Well I finally saw the movie and I was neither overjoyed nor aghast at it’s horribleness. Read more for the fish.
First, thank you Disney for at least hiring a few British actors, and filming a lot of it in England. I mean it could have been worse right? Before you Disney Touchstone people get all giddy (because I just KNOW you come to blarbles.com for all your film making validation) let me just say making a vast majority of the significant characters American was both unnecessary and possibly insulting to the British. Zooey Deschanel playing Trillian, Mos Def playing Ford Prefect, and Sam Rockwell playing Zaphod, are all Americans. While I understand Ford Prefect, and Zaphod are not British in the book, they also aren’t human, and my distinct impression is Ford had a quasi British accent in the book, but really I am getting off the point. More British actors should have been in the movie.
So here is my general opinion of Hollywood’s attempt at the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie: Eh.
The book had so many clever and well built jokes along with complexity and dialog that was just as confusing as it was funny and about 98% of that was gone. I understand for time sake some things had to be cut down, but jokes were simply stripped of their brilliance and dumbed down to one-liners and slapstick with the occasional faithful gem here and there. Aside from the humor, the story was mangled as well, resulting in an effort to get a single enemy or bad guy the audience could focus on. Stupid, especially considering the end of the movie where they throw the whole earth building thing at you with little warning. The adventure just seemed less adventurous, and the character’s effort to get to the end of their journey seemed minimal in the movie.
Acting was alright. Some people don’t like Mos Def, but I thought he was a decent Ford. He seemed oddly uncomfortable in many of the scenes and it just seemed to work because Ford was not from earth, and well you know (if you read the book) Ford was just odd. It is hard to describe I guess. Sam Rockwell, playing Zaphod, was decent as well, although not nearly as obnoxiously cavalier as he should have been. Arthur Dent seemed to be in the spirit of the character, but missing his sheer stubbornness and confusion. Trillian? Trillian confuses me. I thought Zooey was decent, but the character did not seem right. Everyone was not quite right. Like they were ground up, preservatives were added, then put back together. Washed out versions of the original I guess is what I am trying to say.
So what did I like? The graphics were decent. Marvin, while having a much smaller role than I expected, was good. The improbable drive space ship was funny and well done, and the actual Hittchiker’s Guide was great almost perfect I would say. The little bits of bizarre and smart humor scattered here and there were all welcome, but all of these good points were not enough to save a movie that ultimately was squished, chopped, and a toned down version of the book. This was likely done to help it target a wider audience, but I think they disappointed everyone who loved the books, and confused anyone who never read the book. I know Hollywood can do better, but perhaps this is the best Disney can produce when it tries to handle stories and characters that don’t fit in the typical movie mold.