Before there was Red Dwarf, a radio show called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy combined comedy and science fiction. The radio show was followed by five books, a television series, and a computer game. Now The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has become a major motion picture.
Faithful fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will be glad to know that the movie is fairly faithful to both the radio show and the first book. In fact, this does have its downside. If one is familiar with either the radio show or the book, then there will be very few surprises in the movie for him and her. The movie does depart from the radio show, the books, and the TV show in adding a romance to the mix of aliens, the Ultimate Question, and everything. For me, at least, this adds to the story rather than detracts from it, making Everyman Arthur Dent even more human.
The movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy does take a while to get started. This is largely a flaw shared by the first book as well. Once the movie does get started, however, the laughs are non-stop. This is one of the funniest movies I've seen in theatres in literally years.
The comedy is aided by nearly perfect casting. Martin Freeman is exactly as I pictured Arthur Dent, the hapless Englishman launched into interstellar adventure. Mos Def proves that hip hop stars can act, capturing the personality of Arthur's alien pal Ford Prefect very well (and, yes, he is named for the car). Best of all are Sam Rockwell as galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox and Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android. Rockwell looks and behaves exactly as I always pictured Zaphod. It is as if Rockwell was conjured directly from the mind of the late Douglas Adams. As to Alan Rickman's vocal performance as Marvin, I never realised how depressing his voice can be until now! The film is greatly enhanced by the narration of Stephen Fry, whose voice makes an already very English movie even more so.
I have to add that the look of the film captures the spirit of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy perfectly. This movie has some very good set design. The spaceships and architechture are suitably sci-fi kitsch. And the Vogons look almost exactly as I had always pictured them.
Fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (myself being one) will be relieved to find that the movie does not make a mockery of Douglas Adams' multimedia creation. In fact, they will probably find themselves enjoying what is a fairly loyal adaptation of the radio show and the first book. As of everyone else, if they appreciate great comedy (particularly that with a very British bent), then they will love Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It is one of the most delightful comedies to come out in years.