April 29, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

What a wonderful world

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams' intergalactic opus is science fiction the way Lewis Carroll's Alice books are children's stories. This new movie version of Hitchhiker's fails on many levels, misses a fairly huge point in favour of making an easier, more banal one; but overall, with the help of a handful of perfectly-cast actors, the movie is an almost entirely harmless way to spend a pleasant afternoon playing hooky from work.

Too many jokes in this movie, adapted from a book known for its elaborate word play and intricate set-ups, go along these lines:

First Man: Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas.
Second Man: Oh yeah?
First Man: Yeah.

And that's it. For those who know the punchline, it's frustrating. For those who don't, it's simply another long, talky, pointless scene, and you wonder why those teenagers in the next row start guffawing helplessly as soon as the First Man speaks—probably because they know from the book there should be a joke coming, and probably because they've had about three pints of beer. I'd only had one, and it wasn't enough.

In return, we are given many visual jokes instead, some of which are highly effective, such as the extra body parts on Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, and get your mind out of the gutter). Quite a few of the visual jokes are leaden groaners. There were probably also a few groaners in the book, which I'm in denial about. If the film producers had wanted to go for visual humour instead of combining it with the original's snarky dialogue, the final product would be almost justifiable. But there's no real logic to setting up a joke then not following through.

That aforementioned banal point
...has to do with the difference between ending a version of Hitchhiker's with Louis Armstrong singing "What a wonderful world," and a pod of dolphins warbling "So long and thanks for all the fish." But more on that later, and on the biggest puzzler: Why did computer graphics look better twenty-five years ago?

Just what is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and why shouldn't I panic?

Full review in the works.

By the way: "How that elephant got in my pajamas, I'll never know." Rimshot.

Posted by OutsideFood at April 29, 2005 02:23 PM

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