The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

(In theaters, April 2005) The first three books of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series may be classics, but this film certainly won’t. Oh, calm down, it’s not a disaster. But it’s also nothing more than “okay”, and that’s just too bad. While Adams’ best-known comedy work has been featured onto many medium (starting on radio, making its way to a TV series, a computer game and the theater stage), this film plays with the material as if it didn’t know what to do. While the film features some fantastic sense-of-wonder moments (I’m thinking specifically of the planet-yard and the “Goodbye Earth” pullback), a lot of the rest of the film feels cheap and homely. The “Adams-approved” changes to the book don’t really work all that well, and there’s a tendency to reach for cheap laughs whenever things go on for too long. Oh, many of the best bits of the books are on-screen, but not all of them, and those who are often feel a bit out of place. The film suffers from a mishmash of tone, a curious lack of comfort with the material that somehow inhibits laughter: I ended up smiling a lot and occasionally nodding in recognition, but for some reason I didn’t laugh a lot even when I wanted to. The good news, I suppose, is that the film isn’t a complete catastrophe. On the other hand, I have a hard time imagining that anyone will remember it in a year or two. Which may be for the best, really, as people will be able to pick up the books without having them tainted by the stench of what could have been a horrid adaptation. It could have been worse…

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