Grab your towel and Don’t Panic!
Douglas Adam’s classic tale gets a big screen adaptation, of his book/screenplay, which had previously been so well used by the BBC as a miniseries, and before that a radio programme. There are things that work in this version, and things that don’t, but the effort is there to reach a broader audience, and perhaps convince the viewer to seek out the original source material.
There is some great casting, and some not so great casting, Zooey Deschanel is kind of lost as Trillian, but Martin Freeman makes a wonderful Arthur Dent, of course Stephen Fry is the voice of the Guide (who else could it possibly be?!), Sam Rockwell is President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (though they way they execute is dual heads doesn’t quite jibe or work), Mos Def is Ford Prefect, but perhaps most perfectly cast is the late Alan Rickman as the voice of the robot, Marvin (played, physically by Warwick Davis).
The love story between Trillian and Dent is pushed forward, as an intergalactic bypass necessitates the destruction of Earth, catapulting Dent, who looks like he just wants a good cup of tea, into an adventure he really doesn’t want to be involved in. An adventure that sees Beelbrox seeking out the Ultimate Question.
Fry’s Guide, and the animation of it is the highlight of the film, though the practical and creature effects are suitably bizarre and entertaining.
I do like the fact that the film uses the iconic theme of the original series (as well as a cameo by the original Marvin) and includes a wealth of British talent like Bill Bailey, Helen Mirren, Bill Nighy, Kelly Macdonald, Mark Gatiss, there’s also an appearance by John Malkovich which is wonderfully off-kilter.
There’s fun production design, delightful creatures, and a sense of joy around the production though it doesn’t always hit the right note and misses some of the spirit of the original story. Of course, that may be in part due to the fact that the film tries to balance both UK and North American humour.
That being said, I rather enjoy most of this film. I like the way it looks, the cast is great, and while the spirit of Adams original story may not be there, the irreverence is completely front and centre.
The cast seems to have a lot of fun, and they do try to honour the Adams story, but I can see how the humour and story may not quite meet with the expectations of the mainstream audience.
I will say this, it certainly makes me want to dig out the books and revisit that incredible universe once again, towel in hand, Babel fish in ear, and Guide in my pocket.