Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If _Lord of the Rings_ shows the terror and confusion of the First World War, and Orwell’s _1984_ is a portrait of post-war London, then the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy captures seventies England, which is run by vile, blobby civil servants and depressive (robot) functionaries. Arthur Dent is a mopey Englishman surrounded by Yanks who are dazzling, confident, and dim. His main source of comfort is cups of tea, which never arrive. Because it’s seventies England, bowls of petunias in space are funny, and so are absurdist answers to weighty questions.

If I sound hard on the film, I don’t mean to be. Monty Python cast such a shadow that the comedy of cringe and absurdity is still around, and mostly holds up. I never got into the HG2G radio series or books, but was always fond of the kind of boys who did, and this movie makes me miss England, or at least the England of the BBC and Douglas Adams. The cast is lovely. Mos Def’s cheekbones seem picked to set off Martin Whatsisname’s perfect, lumpy ordinariness; I would have liked to have seen him in more scenes. Bill Nighy turns up–yay. Sam Rockwell has a great time in every movie he’s in. The closing song, “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish,” makes full use of Neil (Divine Comedy) Hannon’s Broadway voice. As for the glowing, intrepid Zooey Deschanel character ending up with that particular Arthur Dent, well, I’m glad they explained the bit about the Improbabability Drive. And I want the number of her dermatologist.

Douglas Adams took equal delight in technology, nature, and the arts, and that was rare in a country that still forces kids to limit their study to three subjects from the age of 15, herding them into art or science pens as if the Renaissance had never happened. It shows in his writing, which roamed joyfully. Before he died suddenly at 49 he had dreamed of getting HG2G made into a film, and so it was sweet to see an Adams-faced planet swim into the very last frame. “For Douglas,” ran the closing dedication; indeed.

5 thoughts on “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

  1. My husband and I are excited to see this so I appreciate the review.

    Also, I will be in San Franscisco this October for a medical conference. Please let me know if you would be up for a drink.


  2. Saw the movie over the weekend with Sim. If you read the book, the movie was spot on and quite enjoyable. If you haven’t read the book… well then, I can see how you might be scratching your head a bit and wondering what all the fuss is about.


  3. I have read the book, and it did seem close to spot-on, from what I remember of it. But I’m not the target audience, so I’m not ever going to find it more than sweet and amusing. Maybe I’ve also (been) overdosed on all the BBC comedy shows and writing that later aped Adams’ gentle, absurd deadpan–Americans seem to get more excited about it. šŸ˜‰


  4. I was mildly disappointed with the “guy gets the girl” Hollywood ending in what otherwise was a close-in-spirit film adaptation. Trillian was never really into Arthur in the books. But it was still a sweet ending, so I guess it didn’t tarnish things too much. I loved the little animations done for the entries in the Guide.


  5. Dervala, good to read a review of this by someone ‘not involved’.
    There’s a small breed of American that never saw this stuff as British. Ones who hated the anglophilic pretense of north east prep schools mangeld after “the english system.”
    ..Bought thew books used. Heard the radio sho late at night on weird college shows, and reluctantly enjoyed PBS presentations of the BBS series.
    I feel like the movie might expose a huge underground joke thing that’s written into the software code all over the U.S.
    Zaphrod-BeebleBrocks is no longer a secure password.


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