Just as the Earth is about to be demolished by an alien construction fleet to make way for a hyperspace by-pass, Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, who is in reality a researcher for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
For those of you worrying that this 2005 big screen version of Douglas Adams books/radio series/TV series will be a disaster - Don't Panic!
It's not as bad as it could have been/was expected by many to be. Admittedly there has been a lot of Americanisation to the story and maybe we'll never know how much of this Adams agreed to before his death and how much was forced on the directors and producers afterwards. But essentially the movie is as true to the book as it can be while allowing the same room for reinvention that each incarnation of the story has had over the years.
First of all, the good points. Martin Freeman is perfect as Arthur, and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian is a much more rounded character than Sandra Dickinson ever managed on the small screen. Stephen Fry was also the perfect choice for the new voice of the guide. There are enough nods to the tv series to keep the existing fans happy too, with cameos from Simon Jones and even the original Marvin robot making an appearance at one point. The Vogons are given a much bigger role than they've ever had before as the bureaucrats of the universe and this works well too.
But as with any film inspired by a UK series, there is a downside. For me the film didn't really start until well after the obviously American style title sequence (including a rather lame musical number involving dolphins). The real start of the film for me was the first time you hear the theme from the original radio series played. which you cant help feeling was intended to be the true start for the film.
The other 2 lead actors, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Mos Def as Ford Prefect don't work in their roles. Ford (with an out of place American accent) is relegated to a mere bit part role, adding little to the story progression, instead of the more central part he plays in all the other versions of the story. Zaphod is also just as pointless a character as Ford in this incarnation of the story. Also the way his 2 heads have been re-imaged just doesn't work as far as I'm concerned. And the third arm is hardly ever used. In this way the TV-series version of Zaphod (played by Mark Wing-Davey) is visually much better and a more likeable character all round.
The newly created character of Humma Kavula (written specifically by Adams for John Malkovich) is visually impressive but adds nothing to the story.
There are no faults at all with any of the special effects sequences, from the way the infinite improbability drive reaches normality, to Arthur's tour of the Magrathean workshops. My only real problem with the film is it feels too short. Where as the series managed to get the first 2 of the 5 book series into 6 30-minute episodes successfully, the movie (at 109 minutes) barely manages to cover the first book!
Although many of the well known jokes have been left out (supposedly due to time restraints) this means a lot of good material such as Arthur's description of where the demolition plans actually reside in the town hall, to Earths verbose entry in the guide are missing.
However, regardless of the few dislikes I have about the film, it was still enjoyable and a must see for existing fans and those new to the story as well.
Review by Paul