|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, John Malkovich, Alan Rickman, Steven Fry
Director: Garth Jennings
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
When planning to see the book-to-film adaptation of Douglas Adams’ highly celebrated sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” I have only two words of encouragement: “Don’t Panic.” “Hitchhiker,” or as it’s known to its giant fan base, “H2G2,” is a brilliant collaboration of the witty, English-born roots and the jacked-up, summer-film-spectacle tactics of Hollywood. The wonderful cast of British and American actors are all up to the task of honoring Adams’ original creation, and the handful of additions made to the script are not only mostly harmless, but also mostly welcomed.
Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of “The Office”) isn’t just any normal Earthman. He’s British, which means he likes his tea. He also has one of the best friends any Earthman could ask for, Ford Prefect (Mos Def). Ford may look like any other common Earthman walking the streets of London, but he’s really a traveling alien researcher for the infamous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a small PDA-type book that acts as a know-it-all guide to the galaxy; a guide with all of the answers to all of your questions, except of course those which have yet to be researched. Ford already knows of the impending doom of planet Earth, and as a favor to his only friend, saves Arthur’s life by hitching a ride on one of the many Vogon spaceships sent to demolish the planet.
This is only the beginning of the long journey for the two friends, who are later picked up by the Heart of Gold spaceship recently stolen by the two-headed, three-armed, president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), his human girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), and resident robot Marvin the Paranoid Android (voiced by Alan Rickman and played by Hollywood’s biggest little star, Warwick Davis). The unlikely group of travelers race around the galaxy searching for the question to the answer of the universe -- which inadvertently happens to be 42 -- all while avoiding entrapment on their way to the planet of Magrathea by a clan of angry Vogons.
As mentioned before, there are some missing elements from the original novel, as well as some new ones introduced, but don’t be hasty in pointing fingers at just anyone. Although the final draft of the script was completed by Karey Kirkpatrick, most of the new material was already included by Adams himself in a second draft of the script - including the most prominently unrecognizable character of Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) -- and had been battling to present his latest version of the epic tale for nearly twenty years before his unfortunate death in 2001.
Most of the humor throughout the film is laugh-out-loud funny and the more confusing points of the story (like the Improbability Drive and the Guide itself) are brilliantly presented on screen through a series of clever animations. Probably the most enjoyable part of the film occurred during the opening credits of the film though, when narrator Steven Fry explains how the dolphins’ many attempts to warn the human race of its looming destruction had been horribly misinterpreted, and the jazzy tune “So Long & Thanks For All the Fish” is a hilarious accompaniment to the joke. “H2G2” might feel a little awkward at first to those who haven’t read Adams’ novel, but once you get a general idea of what to expect, everyone will be grabbing their towels and thrusting their thumbs up in the air.
The widescreen DVD release for "H2G2" has tons of potential, but turns out being just slightly better than average. Expect a special edition of this film in the next two years, though, if the single-disc version sells well. Highlighting the disc are two audio commentary tracks: the first featuring Douglas Adams' colleague Sean Solle and executive producer Robbie Stamp, and the second including various cast and crew members. Also included on this release is a making-of featurette, three deleted scenes, a two-minute blooper reel, and a fun little sing along to the hilarious "So Long & Thanks For All the Fish."