By Kyle Francis
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started out as a British radio play by Douglass Adams, and was later adapted into a series of best-selling novels. Even though the story already had two incarnations, someone in Hollywood decided it would be a good idea to give it a third, silver-screen rendition. While this decision didn’t turn out nearly as badly as it could have, Hitchhiker’s Guide doesn’t stay close enough to, nor does it stray far enough away from the source material to be anything more than not bad. The film follows the Hollywood tendency of big screen adaptations, giving enough nods to keep some happy, while tweaking and omiting enough to anger others and only confusing anyone unfamiliar with the source material walks. Despite this, everyone in the theatre will laugh, but no one will go see it twice.
Considering Hitchhike’rs Guide started as a radio play, it stands to reason the plot will be a little bit disjointed and episodic. This is exactly the kind of thing which should be fixed by a little Hollywood style tweaking, but somehow they managed exactly the opposite. Two completely new storylines are thrown in for little reason, driving a massive wedge into a already fractured plot. The story functioned in book form because a great deal of it was made up of one-time gags and zingers, but this style does not translate well to film. The funniest portions of the movie are those lifted word for word from the books, proving they could have made a good movie, but decided not to.
Despite its glaring flaws, Hitchhiker’s Guide is still a pretty funny movie. For starters, Sam Rockwell is Zaphod Beeblebrox. He steals every scene he appears in, his presence alone often being enough to get a laugh. Martin Freeman perfectly pulls off Arthur Dent’s ‘earthling everyman’ persona, acting politely confused at the absurdity of everything going on around him most of the time. If you can get over the superfluous subplots and fractured story line, all of the little sketches and exchanges between characters are pretty entertaining too. Arguably the best part of the movie is the little excerpts from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself, a tiny book that serves as the compendium of all knowledge in the universe, it’s dry British delivery and neat little animations netting the most laughs of any segment.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t a bad movie by any means. It’s just painfully okay. The film’s fantastic acting and execution are both undermined by a balefully disjointed plot. If they would have stuck to the material in the books more closely, or completely thrown it out the window, this could have been a great movie. Instead it joins the swelling ranks of adequate book-to-movie translations. Even in the face of all the bad tidings, there is still hope for the series. The ending leaves itself open for a sequel, so there may be a good Hitchhiker movie yet.