They succeed well, because this movie is a hell of a good ride, filled with laughs and improbable plot twists that have Adams written all over them! It is a bit of a mixed bag, as some of the distinctly British characterizations are Americanized and the expansive and engrossing Mythos of the Guide is condensed for the big screen. But hey, it's more accurate than most adaptations, the special effects are as good as the acting and the laughs are all over the Zarking place!
For those of you who are new to the Galaxy, this is (in small part) the story of Arthur Dent (The Office's Martin Freeman). He's a somewhat ordinary disaffected Brit who wakes one somewhat ordinary morning to discover that his house, as well as his planet are both about to be destroyed in the name of Progress. And I thought I was having a crappy Monday! Luckily, Arthur's bestest buddy Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is really an extraterrestrial journalist for the best selling book in the universe, known as... well, you know what it's called! As a Hitchhiker himself, Ford is able to use his "Electric Thumb" to save his own, and Arthur's, @$$!
What follows is a rip-roaring adventure across the Milky Way in a milky starship called the Heart of Gold, whose primary feature is "The Improbability Drive", more powerful than a Tesseract, and a hell of a lot funnier! You've got to see it! Of course, the Heart of Gold has its own troublesome denizens, like Renegade Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), and his Earth-Chick consort Tricia "Trillian" McMillan (Zooey Deschanel)! That's not to mention the overly-chipper Eddie the Computer, two elusive "mice", and the Anti-C3PO, Marvin the Paranoid Android (Warwick Davis with the voice of Alan Rickman).
Along the way, they'll seek to unlock the mysteries of the Planet Builders (perfectly represented by Bill Nighy's Slartibartfast), challenge their own understanding of Reality, outline the incredible import of the Bath Towel and seek to question the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. All that before Arthur can even change out of his Pajamas!
As a long time fan of Adams and all his works, it would be easy to nitpick this film to death in as many nits as a nitwit can pick if a nitwit can pick nits! There are points in which the plot of the movie diverges improbably from that of the original novel, and some of the changes therein (hard to get used to this version of Zaphod's other head) are as hard to take as a life sized Flintstone Vitamin with a three-pronged fish hook attached to it. There are also times in which the urge to remain accurate to the source doesn't mesh well with the interest in packaging this for the big screen and marketability, and at that point the whole things stalls, somewhat dully, like a broken improbability drive!
But "DON'T PANIC!" This is not a travesty to the novel(s), nor is it a spoiler for potential future sequel adaptations. The acting from the well-chosen cast is all around good, as are the impressive special effects. The use of animated segways into the guide itself is straight from the Novel, Radio programme and TV Series! There are also a few parts that appear nearly verbatim from the original work, which warmed this critics heart like a shot of Brandy during a Christmas Celebration in Whoville! And, yeah, while several things have been left out of this screenplay (by Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick), there are many excellent elements of obscurity, as well as a few Easter Eggs that hit fans of the other Hitchhiker's appearances in various Media straight in the forehead like a ripe pomegranate!
Is it perfect? No! Nothing can replace the book it's based on (which, in turn, was an adaptation of Adams' own Radio Scripts)! Still, even as a nitpicking, Gregory Benford Moment decrying, accuracy demanding textual expert, I'm still damned glad I saw it, and I'm going to see the Zarking thing again! Zark Yeah! Three and One Half Stars out of Five for director Garth Jennings' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! And that's "Mostly Harmless"! Is the timing off? Probably! Will some fans find this to be an abomination? Yeah, but it's almost impossible to get such a rich novel onto the big screen and call it "perfect"! Well... it's at least improbable, and hey, a lot of the changes were made by Adams himself! In the Easter Egg Category, check out the line of Creatures as Ford, Arthur and Zaphod fill out all the necessary forms for Trillian's release from the Vogon Hoards! You'll see none other than the Marvin Android from the original TV Programme! So, until "42" is proven to be the answer to "What's Yellow and Dangerous?", I'll see you in the next reel. Probably! The answer is actually "Shark Infested Custard!"
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