I told my Kenya teammates this weekend it was a measure of my commitment to the trip that, for their sakes, I was missing the opening weekend of a movie I had waited 24 years to see.
I was too tired to take in a movie after returning from training on Sunday, but as soon as I left the office today I got in the car and headed straight for Tullahoma, to take in the 4:10 showing of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”
I was not disappointed. The filmmakers have deftly captured the whimsy and the basic plot of Douglas Adams’ book while making it work on its own level as a movie. My brother in California, another fan of the book, and I talked about this a week or two ago. He pointed out that purists have little grounds to complain about plot changes — after all, Adams’ book differed from his original BBC radio script, and Adams’ TV script differed from both of them. Adams had worked for years on the movie script; after his death, another writer brought it to completion.
The biggest difference between the book and the movie, as a million other reviewers have already pointed out, is that the romantic tension between Arthur Dent and Tricia “Trillian” McMillan — only hinted at in the book — has been turned into a full-blown romance; the movie ultimately pivots on Arthur and Trillian’s relationship. I can live with that and think it made the movie more entertaining and accessible to a mainstream audience without running too far afield from Adams’ tone.
Of course, if this turns into a movie series, it means that somewhere down the line the plot will diverge even further from the books. In the fourth book, “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish,” Arthur finally finds his soulmate — and it isn’t Trillian.
Anyway, the “Hitchhiker’s” movie is perfectly cast. Mos Def and Sam Rockwell, in particular, may not fit what I had imagined of Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox. But in some ways they’re better than what I had imagined. Martin Freeman as Arthur and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian are terrific, and so is Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast.
The voice-over talent deserves special praise: Alan Rickman is Marvin the android (By Grabthar’s hammer he is!), Helen Mirren is fine as the voice of Deep Thought, Thomas Lennon (“The State” / “Viva Variety” / “Reno 911”) is perfect as Eddie, the sickeningly cheery computer voice, and Stephen Fry, last but not least, is the ideal voice of the Guide itself.
John Malkovich has a terrific cameo as a character developed by Adams especially for the movie. I kept waiting for him to reappear; they must be saving that for “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.”
I just hope I don’t have to wait another 24 years.