Film review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

How do you make a comedy funny when everybody knows the jokes? I suppose this was just one of the many challenges faced by the makers of a film version of Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If Adams was still alive, I imagine the solution would be to write a lot of new material in the spirit of the original. There are a few new concepts in this film, but with the possible exception of the creatures that slap you in the face when you have an idea on the Vogon planet, they fall flat.

Adams spent many years trying to make a film version of his hugely popular story, a process he apparently likened to “trying to cook a steak by having a succession of people come into the room and breathe on it”. After seeing this very flat and lifeless film, the steak is still way underdone. The film has a lot of problems: amateurish and uninspired TV-style direction, hammy acting (Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox is especially annoying, and Zooey Deshanel’s Trillian is just—nothing), cheap sets and low production values. The biggest mistake was the desperate attempt to squeeze the original, wandering plotline of the book into a movie-like framework, complete with neat romance arc and ‘watch out for the sequel’ closing dialogue. Instead of plunging head-first into the chaotic madness of the book’s language, the English team try to do an ‘American-style’ film, with predictably tired results—surely past failures like the terrible Mr Bean should have warned them off this approach.

I wanted to like this film, I really did. But Hitchhiker’s is lacking in real inspiration, and ends up only a small cut above the low-budget TV series version. I suggest reading the books again.

One and a half bowls of petunias out of five.

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