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Monday, November 07, 2005

Speaking of Space and Fraudulency...

...I finally got around to seeing the cinematic adaptation of Douglas Adams fabulous first book in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

Message to the producers, director, and anyone else associated with the film, (except Alan Rickman who has built up a great deal of good will immunity to this sort of thing): DO PANIC. Panic completely. Run around like turkeys in a barnyard on the day before Christmas. Panic the way a tuna would if it had just made a wrong turn into a Great White shark's open gob. Panic like the investors in Gigli.

I don't want to spoil the film for those who haven't seen it, so if revealing that it's an overdone, ineptly mixed, piece of tripe that would have killed poor Douglas Adams, had he lived to see it, then I apologize for spoiling it for you. Just think of it in the same way you would had I spoiled your lovely mushroom dinner by revealing that the braised fungi on your plate were poisonous Deadly Angel mushrooms instead of the benign button mushrooms you thought you'd picked.

A quick rundown on what made this film such a revolting diasppointment:

1. The sound. Hitchhiker's is in large part, a dialogue comedy. Yet, the music frequently drowns out the dialogue. I believe that this was done to drown out the bored sighing of the actors throughout the film. Either that, or to distract the audience from the fact that the dialogue had only a passing resemblance to that of the book's. In my own case, the music was loud enough to drown out my tortured screams of disappointment from the neighbors.

2. The acting. Martin Freeman is a passabel Arthur Dent and seemed right for the part, but everyone else is wrong in the way John Wayne was wrong for Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.

For example, Sam Rockwell's performance as Zaphod Beeblebrox was not only unpleasant, but effectively replaced what charm Zaphod has in the books with that of an elephant seal, with a Texas accent.

Even Alan Rickman, who is one of the more gifted and entertaining actors in Britain, plays Marvin all wrong. I mean he gets the depression right. That's a giveaway as far as the part's concerned, but he plays him too human. It's almost like he wants Marvin to be liked and no one who reads the books really likes Marvin. The whole point of Marvin is to be cruelly amusing, not depressingly sympathetic. We want Marvin to be depressed and fail and be ignored, because quite frankly, he's much funnier that way.

Mos Def is a so-so Ford, but comes off better than most, in part because he comparatively underplays the role. Next to Rockwell's Beeblebrox, it's like watching Kevin Spacey playing off Jim Carrey.

Finally Zooey Deschanel captures all of the flakiness of Trillian, while never convincing us that she is in fact the brilliant astrophysicist of the book, or indeed has any personality beyond that of a wet ramen noodle.

Bill Nighy is OK as Slartibartfast, but seems embarrassed in the role at times, as though he'd just walked in on two people in a compromising position and their photographers.

At least there's there's the always entertaining Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide. One out of 20.

3. The plot is a shadow of Adams clever structure. There's a romantic ending, also. The Arthur of the books doesn't so much as touch a woman until book four. There's an annoying musical number that involves dubbed dolphins and, from the sound of it, Up with People.

4. Finally, they had the audacity to throw in the epigraph: "For Douglas".

Now, Adams worked on the script, was listed as an Executive Producer, and had pushed this project for some time, but I don't believe for a second that the finished product is something he would be satisfied with.

Rather, I expect he'd douse the film reels in petrol and set them ablaze, have a few pints, and then put out the fire with his own urine.

It's what I'd do, if it were me.


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