HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, THE
Earthman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is having a very bad day. His house is about to be bulldozed, he discovers that his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien and to top things off, Planet Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur's life is saved by Ford with hitch on a ride on a passing spacecraft. For this novice space traveler, the greatest adventure in the universe begins when the world ends, including the possibility of a romance with Tricia (Zooey Deschanel). But he finds that nothing is as it seems and learns that a towel is the most useful thing in the universe. He also finds the meaning of life, and discovers that everything he needs to know can be found in one book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
English eccentricity at its whimsical best, the film is launched to the accompaniment of a showtune fit for the West End or Broadway, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. If this song title strikes you as absurd or childish, you obviously a) haven't cottoned on to this unique galaxy, and b) never had the good fortune to sample the humour of the Goon Show on the BBC, or indeed any of Monty Python's antics. The HHGTTG comes from a similar place: deflation comedy, pranks, wit and plain silliness are corralled into a shambolic yet endearing package in which the only thing that is taken seriously is comedy. Ah yes, and love - but only just.
For example, who but a downbeat British writer would create the first robot with plausible human personality - and then make it a defeatist, pessimistic, down-in-the-mouth, mumbling and sardonic android, Marvin. (Great work from Alan Rickman on voice.)
The fan base for the Douglas Adams galaxy is huge, yet it excludes me. Not for any reason other than I never had time to read his works. That, I know, is a sad condemnation of my life, and I suffer for it. But the good news is that any other poor miserable sod who finds herhimself in my shoes will discover a world of gizmos and gimmicks that take the ordinary objects and make them magical That also applies to people, although bathrobed Arthur Dent takes a while to wake up to his own possibilities.
We have to be grateful that the film's mood is unstoppably bizarre, and its visual inventions seem to be demanded by the literature on which it is based. Perhaps it's in this digital age that the books' time has come - like the much feared whale scene, in which a nuclear missile meets the Improbability Drive which turns it into a giant sperm whale, which then falls to the surface of the planet below. If you detect a touch of meaning here, Douglas Adams has more. The two headed President of the Galaxy, for a simplistic instance, whose explanation for the remarkable feature is that Presidents don't have a complete brain. He divided it.
Famously, it is in this work that we find the answer to life, the universe and everything: I won't spoil it if you don't know this simple little fact, and if you do, you'll know it promises much for a filmic treatment. A clue: the answer is delivered by Deep Thought (voice of Helen Mirren), the enormous brain of a computer.
I really enjoy films like this, and sadly there aren't many. In fact, I can't think of a single one. I'll go and see it again, then.
Review by Louise Keller:
Bubbling over with wonderfully innovative and fresh ideas, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a witty, wacky satirical sci-fi adventure that is as irreverent as it is profound. Its brilliance comes from the fact that on one hand we can relate to the every day issues it raises, yet at the same time, it goes way over the boiling point of the barometer of sanity. The result is a cross between Monty Python and Men in Black, and the search for the meaning of life, the universe and everything, has never been such fun. For the uninitiated, the film is based on Douglas Adams' bestselling novel, written after the extraordinary success of his 1978 BBC Radio play. A series of books followed and immediately attracted a cult following.
Have you ever had one of those days when everything goes wrong? You think things can't get any worse, but very quickly you realise that things can always get worse. Arthur is an ordinary kind of guy who enjoys his 'nice cup of tea'. He thinks that having his house demolished is as bad as it gets, but that's before he learns his best friend (Mos Def) is an alien and the earth is about to be destroyed. What could be more natural than for Ford Prefect to hitch a ride, and although the chances of survival are next to none, they find themselves scooped up by a spaceship containing Sam Rockwell's ego-maniacal two-headed President of the Galaxy and the adventurous girl of his dreams, astrophysicist Trillian (Zooey Deschanel).
UK comedian Martin Freeman makes a perfect everyman Arthur, whisked out of his element and thrown into a crazy inter-galactic world dominated by Vogons, ugly monsters with bad skin, swollen lips, double chins and bad teeth who write bad poetry. Alan Rickman voices the maniacally depressed squat robot with the oversized head, while Bill Nighy has the unlikely name of Slartibartfast, the Magrathean planet designer who takes Arthur on an extraordinary tour of the galaxy. John Malkovich's scene stealing religious cult leader is a new character Adams created especially for the film, a hideously bespectacled red curly head with some distinguishing features.
Special effects never overshadow the characters or ideas. And there are a couple of priceless gadgets. There's a white helmet thinking cap with a lemon squeezer on top, and when Rockwell's President loses one of his two heads, there is nothing for his brain to run on, except the juice of a lemon. Marguerita lovers rejoice! The other is a gun that stuns its intended (male) victim into understanding your point of view. Every woman should own one! Stephen Fry's narration is our guide and in the course of their adventures in the galaxy, Arthur and Trillian find the long-distance way to true love.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is so much fun, it's out of this world!
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HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, THE (PG)
CAST: Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovich, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman
NARRATION: Stephen Fry
PRODUCER: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach
DIRECTOR: Garth Jennings
SCRIPT: Douglas Adams
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Igor Jadue-Lillo
EDITOR: Niven Howie
MUSIC: Joby Talbot
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joel Collins
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.