It takes a special kind of person to think of the things that make up “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I was warned by my father-in-law that the book was not what you would call “good” or even “worth being printed.” And, he has never led me astray when it comes to books. Conversely, a friend of mine loved it and has been bugging me to see it for months. Granted, that friend has a very curious attachment to British cinema and television (and is arguably a loon). With all of the signs pointing me towards avoiding it, a spat of boredom coupled with the continued nagging from said loon caused me to push the play button of the DVD player.
I was definitely not prepared for what happened next. Maybe I should have read the book first, or at least the Wiki page, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that it involved space, a guy in a bathrobe, and a very eccentric looking Sam Rockwell. I was not ready for the feeling of my brain turning to mush as the movie wore on.
It’s not that it was a bad movie. It was actually entertaining in an “I can’t look away from that waterskiing squirrel” kind of way. Surreal is the only adjective that truly describes this film and they don’t even give you a chance to adjust.
Right off the bat, the narrator describes the situation; that dolphins have known of the impending doom of the Earth for a long time and have tried warning the humans. Unfortunately, the humans don’t understand the dolphins (the humans are only the third smartest Earthlings, while the dolphins are second) and the dolphins finally fly, yes fly, off the Earth. That was the first five minutes of the movie. At this point my brain had begun the process of oozing out of my ears and turning the movie off was no longer an option.
The impressive thing about this movie is that it managed to maintain this level of insanity throughout the entire film. What’s more, each subsequent scene was filled with something so random from the previous thing that it was impossible to anticipate what would happen next. The film goes from a house about to be bulldozed, to the Earth being bulldozed, to Arthur (the guy in the bathrobe) being told to always remember his towel, to Voegons (fat, slimy, bureaucrat aliens) reading poetry, to everyone being turned into yarn, to a priest with eight mechanical legs, to being smacked in the face by flyswatters for thinking thoughts, to…you get the idea.
Hidden in all of the craziness is the surprisingly good level of acting, especially from Mos Def and Sam Rockwell. As Arthur’s hitchhiking friend, Mos Def portrays his characters with a poise and delivery that I never would have thought was a possible from a rapper. He’s funny and endearing and steals a lot of the scenes from Arthur. Less surprising, but even better than Def, is Sam Rockwell, playing the two-headed galactic president. Rockwell plays the egotistical top head perfectly, but plays the Pez-dispensing, smarter lower head (it’s in his chest) even better. His role is basically what makes the film worth enduring.
What’s brainfully, er, painfully obvious about this film (I’m losing it again) is that it works much better as a television show than as a feature film. The whole hitchhiking aspect is lost, other than being smacked with the guide every few minutes when they have to explain something. I’m sure this works much better in a serial, where the guide can be featured in the beginning instead of interrupting with each new oddity. Of course, since you’re practically catatonic twenty minutes into the film, the interruptions aren’t so much of a problem.
Do I regret pushing that play button? That’s an excellent question. On one hand, I love science fiction and I love randomness. Heck, that’s one of the things that draws me to science fiction (and fantasy). I like that authors aren’t constricted by reality. On the other hand, grrrgghhhhggg.
Rating: Worth roughly three dollars for the sheer silliness factor. You’ll need the rest of that money to pay the doctor to put your brain back into your cranium.