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THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy addresses two audiences: the cultists who’ve devoured the book, TV, radio, and video-game incarnations of Douglas Adams’s Pythonesque sci-fi spoof and the rest of the universe. The movie is more for the latter than the former. The filmmakers have taken pains not to alienate non-cultists, adding a beefed-up romance for hapless hero Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, who played the equally hapless Tim on the BBC’s The Office), an actual plot, and John Malkovich in a wry turn as a religious demagogue. Like the Guide, the film is crammed with information. In just the first few minutes, bathrobe-clad earthling Arthur learns that best pal Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien researcher for the Guide and has just rescued him from the destruction of the Earth by thumbing a ride on a passing Vogon destroyer. There’s more, involving Zaphod Beeblebrox (a hammy Sam Rockwell), the rock-star-like president of the galaxy, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), an earthling who rejected Arthur in favor of the flashier Zaphod, and Marvin (voiced by Alan Rickman), a depressed robot.

As for the cultists, they needn’t panic; there are some quick in-jokes that only they will get, and enough of Adams sensibility intact to keep them laughing throughout. Director Garth Jennings has figured out how to translate Adams’s gleefully absurd cosmic metaphysics into screen language. (Watch for a hilarious visual gag involving yarn.) All in all, not bad for a movie made by members of what is only the third most intelligent species on Earth. (110 minutes)

BY GARY SUSMAN

Issue Date: April 29 - May 5, 2005
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