Warning, possible spoilers below...

    The late Douglas Adams would be proud of the latest version of one of the best novels of all time.  Adams spent years going through the movie ringer to get this best seller to the big screen, clipped with interference from the powers that be at every turn.  Ironically, Adams was notoriously flexible about taking his book to different media.  The British TV series as well as BBC Radio shows based on "the Guide" are all slightly different from the original novel, intensionally so.  Most of the holdup came from Adams insistance on having a British lead, of course the only way anyone could have done the movie anyway.

    Because Hitchhiker fans were already used to changes in the novel, most will be pleased with anything.  A unique situation that one wouldn't get from Lord of the Rings fans and so on.  Fresh dialogue and brand new scenes never before part of the Hitchhiker universe were added before Adams' death, making this a joy to watch if you are in the know.  Complete newbees may be a bit confused at first, but there is just enough substance there to hold interest.

    The casting was quite suberb with Martin Freeman playing Arthur Dent, the notoriously whiny Britian who is one of two survivors of the destruction of Earth.  In this take, however, Dent is less negative, a fact that translates better to screen than the original version would have.  Trillian, the lone female of the group, is also much less whiny.  In fact, one would have to say the movie is whine free, interestingly enough new territory for Adams' writing who used sarcasm that many use oxygen to make his points.  Normally presented as a nerdy, plastic and air-headed individual, Trillian is much more human here and her feelings make sense in relation to the insanity around her.

    Mos Def plays the perfect Ford Prefect, and was underused throughout the film.  His facial expressions and attitude are right out of the novel.  The greatest disapointment was with Sam Rockwell as Zaphod.  In retrospect it may be unfair to blame the actor, because the energy was there.  Zaphod was re-written (badly) as an insane and hyper character that shows more resemblance to a bouncy ball than a sentient being.  Apparently they couldn't land Jim Carrey.  His actions are so random throughout the first half of the movie that he becomes a distraction.  Zaphod is neither stupid nor random in the novel (quite the opposite), which is what hardcore fans will definitely harp on most.

    The movie jumps through the novel's stories quite well, taking time to stop in new writing territory.  Dialogue and explanations from "the Guide" make viewing the film much like watching an educational video, which is a completely original theater experience.  No, there wasn't room for every joke here, but that's ok.  It should be noted  that some of the new material should have been cut to make room for the old.  The sub-story in which the guys have to rescue Trillian is pointless in all espects and ruins the pace of the film.  It feels like someone decided that they needed 15 more minutes of film and just slapped it in, which is odd because there was plenty of better material in the original novel.  And because of this a bored feeling takes over for a period of time.  Thankfully that doesn't last.

    In short, a very enjoyable and very original experience that should capture some new fans while doing just enough to please the educated.  It will do extremely well in England.  If they can get Zaphod right next time, then there is no reason why we can't all meet at the Restaurant At The End of The Universe in two years.  (-William J Piniarski-)

    | copyright, 2005 |