Hitchin’ a ride

Stick out a thumb and hold on tight as the sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy takes off. The new film version of Douglas Adams’ popular book comes to life on the big screen with a stellar cast and out-of-this-world effects.

The film begins by introducing the down-on-his-luck pajama-clad protagonist, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman). Arthur is in the process of attempting to save his house from demolition by a wrecking crew that wants to flatten his abode in order to make room for a highway. His good friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), arrives and provides the crew with distracting refreshments and snacks. While the crew is busy imbibing Ford’s goodies, Arthur and Ford hurry to get a drink at the local pub.

Over a few pints, Ford explains that the earth will be destroyed within 10 minutes. Years ago, Arthur was able to save Ford’s life, so he now offers to return the favor. Upon the aliens’ invasion, Ford grabs Arthur and sticks out a thumb as they hitch a ride on a giant spacecraft. Luckily, Ford has a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with him to help in their predicament. The automated book is boldly imprinted with the words “Don’t panic,” and holds the keys to survival in the galaxy.

The twists and turns of their travels in space are too complex and far too much fun to give away. However, their travels do bring them into the company of a host of strange characters. One double-headed zany character is named Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell). Zaphod is the newly elected president of the galaxy and kidnapper of the galaxy’s most friendly spacecraft. Tricia “Trillian” McMillan (Zooey Deschanel) accompanies Zaphod on his voyage to find the meaning of life. Their other shipmate is Marvin the Paranoid Android, a bubble-headed robot voiced by Alan Rickman.

The film is a fantastical voyage across the universe with the characters seeking the meaning of life. The often-confusing creatures and principles are explained by the narrated voice of Stephen Fry as the actual Hitchhiker’s book. However, some facets of the story just require the audience to accept these off-the-wall items as normal. For example, Ford is able to protect himself from all harm with the aid of a common towel.

The imagery and special effects are convincing but maintain a goofiness that makes the film appeal to audiences of all ages. The jokes in the film are ridiculous in nature and well-delivered by the cast.

The best aspect of the film is the ensemble cast. Freeman was able to capture Arthur Dent’s quiet anxiety. Mos Def plays Ford with an indiscernible accent and quirky characteristics. Rockwell is annoying and egocentric, which is the essence of Zaphod. Rickman perfectly voices the maniacally depressed Marvin. John Malkovich briefly appears as the cultish leader of one of the bizarre planets the characters visit during their journey.

The film, while fun and well done, does go a bit too far at times. The end is slightly over-exaggerated and a little anti-climactic. It is not a film all audiences will love, due to its sarcastic humor and dependence on the audience’s willingness to suspend their disbelief. However, the interesting characters and what-will-happen-next possibilities make the film an inescapable watch.

Grade: B+
Adventure, PG, Running time: 110 mins.