Fans of Douglas Adams’ original “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” can let out a sigh of relief. “Hitchhiker” creates a wonderful world of the absurd. Preserving the tone of the book, director Garth Jennings has sent his film to the stratosphere of giddiness.
For those unfamiliar with the hit series, the set of five novels follows the space adventures of a provincial, young, and rather wimpy Brit named Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman). This film covers the first book of the series.
Arthur’s adventure, set against the warm wisdom-filled voice of a grandfatherly narrator, commences moments before the Earth’s destruction. In a friendly gesture, Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), drags him into an existential debacle in outer space where he encounters a manic-depressive robot and the inner monologue of a sperm whale. To save their lives, they stow away aboard an alien ship, and thus, their adventures begin.
As Ford points out, the actual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate depository for all the knowledge in the universe. Among its witticisms: never, ever forget your towel when traveling. Because, as Ford and Arthur prove, a towel can do almost anything.
Set against the backdrop of a richly peculiar galaxy, “Hitchhiker” is an exercise in silly humor. Reflecting the talents of Monty Python, the film perfects the absurdness of British humor. From the opening scenes of singing dolphins, the entertainment never lags. Never since John Cleese’s dead parrot or taunting Frenchman in “Monty Python and the The Holy Grail” have I been so amusingly perplexed.
Most importantly, Jennings captures the spirit of Adams’ original. While the film is often goofier than the books, it retains the playfulness so crucial to their success.
Despite its light-hearted humor, the film possesses a surprising amount of social commentary. Poking fun at such targets as the Catholic Church and political leadership, the satire adds another dimension to an already abounding narrative, but never distracts.
A warning to those looking for a serious narrative or deep character development: you may be disappointed. Adams’ work relies on absurdity, so be prepared to suspend disbelief. The film plays with the same trusting nature of a child.
Jennings’ universe, in all its deceiving simplicity, never felt truly harmful — even when staring down the snout of an alien committed to making your life fizzle out. These moments make the viewer feel like all of life will work out in the end.
While it risks losing more rigid viewers, “Hitchhiker” will surely please any fan of random humor. To Adams, Monty Python, Mr. Bean, or Faulty Towers fans out there: go see this movie. I cannot wait to drag my friends back to witness the invigorating goofiness of this wonderful film.
“Hitchhiker” makes it appear that even in a space of eternal possibility, humans will be as panicky and shy as they have always been. Even the aliens can be as nice — or as mean — as the people next door.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” also stars Zooey Deschanel, John Malkovich, and Warwick Davis. It opens Friday nationwide and is rated PG.
Remember, don’t forget your towel. Grade: A —