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Hitchhikers is worth the ride

Arthur J Pais | May 02, 2005 17:03 IST

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The GalaxyNot everyone who hasn't devoured Douglas Adams' science fiction adventures and enjoyed their eccentric humour and crazy situations will easily embrace the movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. It helps to know a few things about Babel Fish, Vogons and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. And to be armed with insights into Adams' unique, topsy-turvy universe.

But then not everyone unfamiliar with Adams' characters will be disappointed or bewildered with the movie either, though some of its British humour could be lost on them.

The movie grossed over $27 million in North America in its opening weekend. It shows that the film certainly has crossover appeal. It surely is more than a cult hit.

I know of several people who, having enjoyed the film, have bought at least the first of the five books in Adams' Hitchhiker's series, telling themselves they are going to enjoy the film much more when the DVD version is released.

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But I have also heard a few people complain that it is an off-key space adventure that burns out quite fast. 

Director Garth Jennings, working from a preliminary script Adams worked on shortly before his death four years ago (and with inputs by Karey Kirkpatrick, whose work in the animated movie Chicken Run is still remembered) has created a fairly high-spirited film, whose appeal continues till the end despite a sagging middle.

The movie also has a number of refreshing performances, especially by Martin Freeman as the unwilling space hero, Arthur Dent.

Earthman Arthur is having more than an awful day. His house is about to be bulldozed, and he discovers that his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien who has come to research earth for the book, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Arthur also learns that the planet is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur has to hitch a ride on a passing spacecraft to survive. His space journey begins reluctantly, but soon he is discovering plenty of interesting life lessons. And having fun.

The creatures he meets include the two-headed President of the universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), and Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who had spurned Arthur not too long ago at an earthly cocktail party. And then there is Marvin, a depressed robot (voiced brilliantly by Alan Rickman), mad intergalactic missionary Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) and a planetary construction engineer Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who has supervised the construction of a back-up planet Earth.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The GalaxySome of the movie's best moments do not feature humans at all. Jennings creates a splendid sequence in which dolphins warn earthlings about the impending doom but the warnings are not understood. Watch them bid the planet goodbye with the haunting number: So long and thanks for all the fish.
 
The Vogons, the giant puppets, also play a key role in the proceedings.

Jennings, who graduates from directing videos to a feature film with Galaxy, is not always successful in translating Adams's anarchistic wit to the big screen. And there are times the film lacks cohesiveness.

But on the whole, this is a ride worth taking.



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