The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Mostly harmless

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Review The radio series, that became a book, that became a TV series, has finally made it to the silver screen. The film version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is faithful to author Douglas Adams' legacy. The trouble is it's simply not especially funny.

The film contains additions not found in previous incarnations of the guide but the basic story remains the same. Painfully ordinary human Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes to find his house is about to be bulldozed. Things go from bad to worse when he finds out his best mate Ford (Mos Def - anonymous throughout) is an alien and that Earth is about to be destroyed by a race of intergalactic jobsworths called the Vogons.

Arthur escapes certain death thanks to Ford only to find himself flung into space before being improbably picked up by a galactic president on the lam, egotist Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), who just happens to be same bloke who swiped the love of Arthur's life, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel).

This ragtag mob set off in search of the meaning of life armed only with their towels, are brought down by manically depressed robot Marvin (voiced by Alan Rickman), and pursued by the Vogons.

There's a lot to like in first time director Garth Jennings' film. The Vogons, created by Jim Henson's creature workshop, are a wonderfully vile cross between Jabba the Hut and a High Court judge gone senile. Rockwell channels Ozzy Osbourne to steal the show as the two-headed burnout turned Galactic President. The film looks great. The sight gags (look out for a cameo of Marvin from the BBC TV series) work well.

But the transition of live action sequences and animated clips from the guide (an encyclopaedic PDA) are badly handled and slow down the pace of the film. There's little by way of character development. The plot is weak and the film can't decide whether it's a road movie, quest or love story. Surreal material such as this works best, as in The Life of Brian, when it's supported by a strong dramatic thrust.

Yet despite these failings the joy of Adams' deadpan humour shines through. Like the original X-Men, Hitchhiker’s is weighed by too much exposition, a failing a sequel will hopefully correct.

Mostly harmless. ®

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