“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

By Richard Pulfer

Don’t panic. After many poor novel-to-movie adaptations, the most recent being “Sahara,” Hollywood seems to be getting it right for a change. With Robert Rodriguez’s dead-on adaptation of “Sin City” burning through the box office, Garth Jennings’ adaptation of the classic Douglas Adams novel seems destined for a similar straight.

The story follows the last man from planet Earth, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), as he and his alien best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), try to survive after Earth is destroyed. Along the way, Arthur finds the love of his life Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and the crazy president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell). Along with a reality-bending ship and a depressed robot named Marvin (voiced by Alan Rickman), the group searches for an ancient computer.

“Hitchhiker’s Guide” has as unorthodox a plot as one could hope for. Given both the intellectual and irrelevant nature of the film, it’s easy to picture the film being botched by Hollywood. However, director Gareth Jennings provides a faithful and colorful adaptation, thanks in part to a script written by Adams himself.

The movie also makes use of a tremendous cast. John Malkovich appears as an unscrupulous villain named Humma Kavula while Bill Nighly appears as a mysterious stranger who seems to have all of the answers. Rickman’s manic-depressive Marvin is among the most hilarious characters in the film.

The visuals of the film are spectacular and greatly enhance the experience of the movie. Some of the alien make-up is a mixed bag, serving to emphasize the wacky nature of the characters.

Despite all of this, there are some problems. I never could decide if I liked or disliked Zooey Deschanel’s character Trillian and for all the controversy of rapper Mos Def playing Ford Prefect, his character ultimately does very little in the latter half of the film.

The lack of narration is probably the movie’s biggest hindrance. Adams’ prose is what made the novel a success, not necessarily the events of the book. Although the movie does try to make use of voice-overs supplied by Stephen Fry playing the Guide, some scenes lacking narration fall flat on their faces.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has some dazzling visuals as well as some hilarious concepts. The movie serves as a good prelude to this summer’s box office offering, but ultimately the film isn’t the same experience as reading Adams’ novel. Maybe all this film needs is a special-edition DVD with some deleted scenes, because the movie is rather short. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” does, at the very least, provide both the life-saving uses of a towel as well as the answer to the meaning of life: 42.