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I was a bit worried that after seeing the remake of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I would be like a bowl of petunias, saying "oh no, not again." It doesn't take a hyperintelligent pan-dimensional being to realize that remaking a cult classic like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy could be like being hit over the head with brick wrapped in a lemon. I knew that the people making this film were trying to do justice to the material and that Douglas Adams was working with them on the screenplay when he died way too young in 2001. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Don't Panic, the new movie is a pleasant surprise.
As most of you already know, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the story of an average guy named Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) who wakes up to bulldozers about to destroy his house for a highway bypass. His problems soon get worse as the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur is rescued by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who, as luck would have it, turns out to be an Alien from Betelgeuse. Arthur and Ford hitch a ride on one of the Vogon ships until they are tossed out an airlock and are picked up by the Heart of Gold piloted by Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). Trillian, aka Tricia McMillan is the only other surviving human and previously dissed Arthur to go planet hopping with Zaphod. Also in the mix are Marvin the depressed robot (voice by Alan Rickman), Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), Humma Kavula (John Malkovich), lots of Vogons, a whale and a bowl of petunias. To figure all this out, Arthur constantly consults Ford's copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Despite my worries, the new version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy does a very good job of maintaining the feeling of the book and the previous productions. There's even some Vogon poetry. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cultists, mostly geeks like me, constantly argue about which is best, the books, the original radio show, or the campy TV version. As a link to the past, Simon Jones, who played Arthur in both the radio and TV versions, appears as the holograph warning about the dangers of Magrathrea. The new movie has yet another first time director, Garth Jennings, who has previously only directed music videos. But it's quite well done and although there are some better special effects, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy maintains its essential goofiness. This is due in large part to Sam Rockwell who has channeled a combination of Bill Clinton and George Bush into his Zaphod Beeblebrox. And he still has two heads and three arms. Martin Freeman (The Office, Love Actually) is stolidly dweebish as Arthur and Zooey Deschanel (All the Real Girls, The Good Girl) is beautiful yet practical as Trillian, the unemployed Astrophysicist. Bill Nighy, who stole every scene as the aging rocker in Love Actually, is perfect for Slartibartfast. And John Malkovich has a nice cameo as the religious leader of the people awaiting the arrival of the big handkerchief. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy makes very good use of voiceovers also. Alan Rickman is excellent as the voice of Marvin, as are Stephen Fry as the voice of the Hitchhiker's Guide, and Helen Mirren as the voice of Deep Thought. The Vogons are particularly nice.
The new movie version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a little uneven but so, I have to say, are the books themselves. Adams came up with amazingly hilarious stuff but he didn't care whether the story arcs actually went anywhere. So if I had to quibble I would say that the end of the movie is a little too pat, a little Hollywood, a little too un-Adams. His books don't exactly have happy endings.