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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy  

Despite their being cultural touchstones for many a smart, nerdy chap I’ve known over the years, I’ve never gotten around to reading Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” novels, the first of which came out in 1979.   Now comes this many-years-in-the-making screen version, for which Adams, who died in 2001, was a co-screenwriter.   A friend of mine who’s read the books reckons that only about 40% of what’s on the page made it into the movie.    

One would have to be mad to try to summarize the plot.  So let’s have a run at it: after Earth is blown to smithereens to make room for an intergalactic highway, English everyman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, always a pleasure) finds himself careening around the galaxy with a motley crew searching for the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything.  

I’m no judge of how well filmmakers Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings (a.k.a “Hammer & Tongs”) have translated Adams to the screen, though I can say that they’ve brought a keen visual imagination to bear on the material.   Furthermore, if, as I’ve heard tell, so much of the humor of the books is in the narration, then the film is well-poised in that it’s got excellent voiceover narration from Stephen Fry (who played Jeeves so perfectly in Granada/PBS’ P.G. Wodehouse adaptations).  

Speaking of the great Wodehouse (one of Adams’ favorite authors though their milieus couldn’t be more different), it strikes me based on this movie that the two writers share much, including a gentle farcical tone which, though never mean-spirited, nevertheless utterly deflates all pomposity.   True brutality exits not in their universes.   Though constantly “in the soup”, their characters hang on in quiet desperation, implying that there’s no crisis that can’t be gotten through so long as we don’t succumb to the true enemy of the human spirit: humorlessness.  

I’m looking forward to catching up with Adams' books after all these years.    

- May 15, 2005

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