Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Hitchhiker's Film

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is in a very English vein of absurdist comedy and it was a mistake to cast Americans in leading roles. The nearest American comedy gets to Adams is the Marx Brothers- and that's how the Americans play it and it's wrong. You've got to underplay Adams, you've got to deadpan it.  If you jump around semaphoring that this is all like whacky and zany you kill the comedy stone dead. Freeman, Nighy and Rickman know how it's done; Mos Def and that desperately unfunny guy who played Beeblebrox haven't a clue. 

The original radio show was an interminable ramble. Long before the end I was all whimsied out.  So cutting it down to the length of a bubblegum movie was a good idea, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand the movie doesn't outstay its welcome and on the other there's now too much plot and it's pretty hard to follow. Why was the gal with the severe haircut chasing Beeblebrox in alliance with the Vogons and who was she anyway? I don't know- and worse than that- I don't really care. 

Adams's genius (that's maybe too strong a word for a hit and miss humourist) was for wordplay. Vogon poetry, silly names, surreal flights of fancy. The original was never stronger than when Peter Jones read discursive extracts from the Guide.  Almost the funniest thing in the entire movie is the narrated story- tacked on at the end- about the alien battlefleet that gets eaten by a small dog. The animatronic Vogons are fun and the CGI landscapes are pretty to look at but they don't add anything essential. The joke about the whale falling through space is no funnier now you can see it.

Adams's master was Lewis Carroll and you can't film him either-  not with any success-  though I hear Tim Burton is going to have a stab at it. Personally I wish he'd save himself the bother.
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