The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Bill Bailey, John Malkovich

Directed by: Garth Jennings

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

The crew in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

'It's a well known and popular belief that things are not always as they seem,' opines a treacle-toned Stephen Fry as Douglas Adams' cult spoof sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy finally makes it onto the big screen. It's also a well known and popular belief that if you aren't a 24 carat, anorak wearing sci-fi nerd who knows Adams' radio play, books and dodgy TV series off by heart, you won't have much hope of making head or tail of this movie adaptation of his work. Of course, all these reviews are written by 24 carat, anorak wearing sci-fi nerds who do know the collected works of Douglas Adams off by heart.

But if, like me, you don't know your pangalactic gargleblarsters from your, um, lightsabres, don't panic because, you know what? I loved this crazy film. I mean, anything that starts with a chorus of dolphins singing a song (that'll be 'So Long and Thanks for all the Fish', then - even I recognise that line) and features creatures from the Jim Henson workshop has to be okay with me. And hey, what's not to understand? As long as you can accept the fact that none of it makes any sense at all, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is.

Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent (The Office's Martin Freeman) is an average, ordinary, every day dude whose house is about to be demolished in order to build a bypass. Little does he know that this is actually the least of his worries, as, in precisely nine minutes, the entire earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass, built by a grotesque race of poetry-spouting Jabba the Hut lookeylikeys known as the Vogons, who, with their love of convoluted and anal bureaucracy, are in fact the intergalactic answer to Midlothian Council. Fortunately, Arthur's off the wall alien mate Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is there to save him, just in time, by hitching a lift on the Vogon's spaceship.

The Vogons consider which forms to fill in

The Vogons, none too happy to discover they have stowaways on board, punish them by subjecting them to poetry of such sublime awfulness it would make Charles McGonagall proud, then summarily ejecting them into deep space. Fortunately, against incredible odds, they are rescued by a stolen spaceship piloted by the President of the Galaxy, one Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, who, with his flowing blond locks and gleaming white teeth, comes on like a cross between Jesus Christ Superstar and Justin Hawkins) and his sidekick Trillian, aka Trisha Macmillan, aka a lassie Arthur met at a party the week before and really rather liked. Oh, and the impossibly cute planet-domed Marvin the Paranoid Android, voiced by none other than Alan Rickman. Yup, you'll be unsurprised to hear that the spaceship has the 'improbability drive' engaged.

Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

And if, like the spaceship, you can disengage yourself from the laws of probability, you will discover that, regardless of whether or not you are previously familiar with Douglas Adams' oeuvre, you will thoroughly enjoy this enormously exuberant, fun-filled film. The special effects are groovy (even if Zaphod Beeblebrox's imfamous second head is almost as rubbish in this production as it is in the notoriously low budget cardboard TV series, which, okay, I admit I have seen), the scenery is at times quite breathtaking (Dent's voyage through the planetary workshop is breathtaking), the attention to detail is delightful (watch out for the scene in the Vogon JobCentre, or whatever it's supposed to be - it's a gem) and the cast features a stellar line up of British talent, from Bill Bailey as a sperm whale stranded in space, Helen Mirren as the super computer Deep Thought and the ever-wonderful Bill Nighy as planet architect Slartibartfast to the cast of the League of Gentlemen as all the Vogons. Hell, even the token Americans include the inimitable John Malkovich in their number, revelling in his role as a sinister cult leader called Humma Kavula.

Alan Rickman voices the impossibly cute Marvin the Paranoid Android

Yes, if you're a purist you could complain that the romance between Arthur and Trillian that's shoehorned in for the girlies is not in the true spirit of the original, that lots of the real off the wall humour is missing, and that poor Ford Prefect is somewhat sidelined, but none of the true Douglas Adams fans I was with were complaining too loudly. In fact, the general reaction was one of unmitigated delight - 'like meeting up with old friends,' as the lovely Kirsty put it.

So forget the hype(r space), get out that sci-fi anorak and hitch a life with Arthur Dent and friends. It's fun, it's funny, it's charming, it's ridiculously British (Monty Python in space is a comment that springs to mind) and, best of all, it's a trip.

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