Cast is out-of-this-world in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Cast is out-of-this-world in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’

Howie Nave

Ford Prefect (Mos Def, left) and Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) become stowaways on a spaceship in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy."

Somewhere out there in the galaxy is an intelligent film ripe with sarcastic humor with just enough wit as to let Earthlings know that they are indeed not alone and a wicked twist of the offbeat. I am happy to report that film has finally landed.

It has taken years to bring “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” to the big screen, but we get to see the late, great Douglas Adams’ masterpiece adapted into a movie that is perfectly cast. Little has changed from the book except incorporating some new, high-tech gadgets, which transfers brilliantly to the screen without losing the integrity from the original.

First-time director Garth Jennings knew from the start that if he varied too far from the essence of Adams’ book there would be hell to pay across the Atlantic. He did a very good job here. Jennings’ movie version is the latest incarnation from Douglas Adams’ work. There was a TV adaptation based on the novel that played well, but not too many had a chance to see it, as well as a radio series, but again, only the faithful were able to hear it.

With a little help from us Yanks in the funding department, we get the long-awaited movie version, but make no mistake – this is a British production and mindset even if we assisted a little. Good thing, too. At least there won’t be a future remake, since we had our hands in the production overseas.

Jennings’ film influences are apparent, such as Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element,” with a little “Dr. Who” and healthy dose of “Monty Python” thrown in for good measure. I haven’t enjoyed a send-up of the whole sci-fi genre since “Galaxy Quest” in the last century. The little-known Sam Rockwell was brilliant in that film, so it’s no coincidence that his contribution in this film is just as good. The casting here was well thought-out.

Martin Freeman (who played Tim on the hit BBC series “The Office”) plays Arthur Dent, an Englishman of sarcastic demeanor who seems to take life’s everyday nuances with a grain of salt. His expression doesn’t vary much and has a dry approach to everything no matter how devastating things may be. For example, Dent just found out that his house is to be demolished to make way for a new bypass. That’s not even the sad part. His best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who tipped him off, is actually an alien with advanced knowledge that the Earth is to be demolished to make way for a new hyperspace express route. Bad enough your house has to go, but your planet, too? Bummer. Alien construction ships are lined up just waiting to get the OK so that Earth can be reduced to dust for their project. I hope the TRPA didn’t have a hand in this.

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Why weren’t we given advance notice of our impending doom? In perfect bureaucratic fashion we were, in fact, given notice over 50 years ago. Anyone in the galaxy could have checked for themselves since the plans have been available for inspection on Alpha Centauri, so it’s just our fault we couldn’t fly there, and now it is too late to lodge an official complaint to put a halt to the project.

With this newfound knowledge and just in the knick of time, Ford transports Arthur from Earth and they hitchhike across the Milky Way armed with their invaluable book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide,” voiced with as much excitement as Jello sitting in the freezer by Stephen Fry. Here’s where some liberties were taken, but it by no means takes away from the book. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” has been re-styled as a laptop with witty graphics accompanying Fry’s voice. When “The Guide” speaks, we see images of what’s on his mind, and there are some pretty hysterical moments as to what Fry has to say.

As with most entertaining movies, it’s the overall cast that makes the main characters shine. Rockwell was well cast as the glam alien, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, the love interest for Arthur, was brilliant. And John Malkovich as Humma Kavula was a cool touch. But it’s the voices supplied by actors that really steal the scenes. Those would include the aforementioned Fry and the great Brit actor Alan Richman providing the voice of Marvin, the often-depressed and paranoid android.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys Tuesday through Sunday nights. You can hear him on seven radio stations every Friday morning reviewing movies in northern California and Nevada, including KRLT in Lake Tahoe and KOZZ out of Reno. Watch him every Saturday and Sunday on Tahoe’s KMTN TV doing movie and video reviews.

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