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Garth Jennings
Bill Bailey, Anna Chancellor, Warwick Davis, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Su Elliot, Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry, John Malkovich
Writing Credits:
Douglas Adams (book and screenplay), Karey Kirkpatrick

Don't Panic.

Here's the absolutely hysterical, wonderfully wild, cosmic adventure comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Based on Douglas Adams' worldwide best-selling novel, and starring an outrageous intergalactic cast, this is one ride you don't want to miss. Seconds before Earth is destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace express route, mild-mannered Arthur Dent is whisked into space by his best friend (an alien posing as an out-of-work actor). And so the misadventures begin as he and fellow travelers, including the cool but dim-witted President of the Galaxy, the Earth girl Trillian, and Marvin the paranoid android, search for answers to the mystery of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$21.103 million on 3133 screens.
Domestic Gross
$51.019 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/13/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director Garth Jennings, Producer Nick Goldsmith And Actors Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy
• Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams’ Colleague Sean Solle
• “Making of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
• Additional Guide Entry
• Deleted Scenes
• Really Deleted Scenes
• Sing Along
• Marvin’s Hangman
• THX Optimizer
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 9, 2005)

As Peter Jackson proved with the Lord of the Rings movies, sometimes filmmakers can take a property with a passionate cult fan base, live up to those expectations and turn it into a popular hit as well. Alas, such success didn’t occur for 2005’s big screen adaptation of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It took in a lackluster $51 million and didn’t attract much of an audience.

And that means me as well, since I skipped it during its theatrical release. Now that I’ve seen it, I think Guide deserves credit for trying something different, but it only sporadically achieves its goals.

Guide introduces us to typical Englishman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman). A crew plans to demolish his house to allow them to build a bypass, but he stands in their way. His buddy Ford Prefect (Mos Def) tells him this is all a moot point as the world will end in about 12 minutes.

And Ford – who turns out to be an alien - is correct. A bureaucratic species called Vogons blows up the Earth for their own construction purposes, but Ford uses his hitchhiking thumb ring to get them off the planet. After a risky sojourn on a Vogon ship, they wind up on a craft stolen by galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), a nutbag who kidnapped himself.

Arthur also re-encounters lovely young Tricia MacMillan (Zooey Deschanel), now rechristened “Trillian” for short. They met a while back at a costume party, but Arthur blew his chance to connect with her and she hooked up with Zaphod instead.

A series of complications and adventures ensue, but most of these revolve around one goal. Zaphod wants to get to the planet Magrathea, the home of a supercomputer that provided the answer to an important question. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is, so Zaphod seeks that information. The film follows this quest and all of its connected antics.

Expect all sorts of connected antics in Guide. In fact, the movie tosses out more connected antics than actual story. That’s a problem when you adapt a much larger work into a film that runs less than two hours. Guide has enjoyed many incarnations over the years. It started as a multi-part radio show and grew into books, a stage production, and other endeavors.

All that creates a lot of material to pack into a relatively short film. I know that Guide doesn’t attempt to fit everything from the various projects into its 108 minutes, but it seems to attempt too much. The movie zips about from scenario to scenario with such alacrity that we rarely get a chance to settle into one or another.

Instead, the bits and pieces zoom past us. This means that the elements come across as little more than story fragments. We don’t dally on one scene for long, as the film needs to pack in 100 more before the end credits roll.

This frenetic pacing works okay for a while, but eventually it wears thin. The movie simply tries to deliver too many aspects of the story, and that doesn’t allow many of them to grow and develop. The pieces provide occasional laughs and thrills, but not much depth.

Another problem stems from the use of a narrator. That voice works in text or on radio but not here. Rather than become part of the story, the narrator distracts and plays the expository role to a dominant degree. Attempts at humor fall flat, as the narration comes across as heavy-handed and dense.

Don’t take all these criticisms as an indication that Guide flops, however. It scores in two areas: visual creativity and performances. The movie enjoys a very good cast, and they all fill out their roles well. The best work comes from the usually-reliable Rockwell in his nutty Elvis-inspired take on the leader. He enlivens his scenes with unpredictable energy and makes this yet another in his many lively turns.

The movie also consistently looks great. It affords many different settings, and these manage to seem inventive and delightful. I also like the film’s surprising lack of reliance on CGI. Sure, plenty of that work appears, but we also get decidedly non-computer elements like the creations from Jim Henson’s shop. These add an old-fashioned sense of weight to the proceedings.

Ultimately, there’s enough amusement and cleverness on display in Guide to make it enjoyable. I can’t help but think that it would have worked better with a more limited scope, however. It simply tries to fit too much material into a short period of time, and that truncated feel robs it of much depth.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A- (DTS) B+ (DD)/ Bonus B

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some good-looking segments, too many parts of Guide presented problems.

The biggest issue connected to sharpness, which appeared iffy at times. Some prominent edge haloes caused many of the distractions and meant that the shots often were moderately ill-defined and soft. The flick looked better during its third act, but up until that time, too much of it seemed to lack great clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I also failed to detect any source flaws.

Colors varied dependent on the setting. From the heavy greens of the Earth segments to the blown-out whites of the film’s main ship to the arid look of Magrathea, we got many different tones. These occasionally looked a bit heavy, but the DVD usually replicated them with good fidelity. Blacks were nicely dense and tight, and low-light shots demonstrated solid delineation. Really, the softness and edge enhancement was the primary concern. Without those flaws, this would have been a fine transfer.

Happily, I found very little about which to complain when I examined the soundtracks of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Although each one worked fine, I preferred the DTS track. I’ll discuss it first and then detail what made it better.

Despite its comedic, absurdist bent, Guide lived in the world of sci-fi action as well, which meant a tendency toward that form of audio. It didn’t match up with the wonders of the Star Wars prequels or other truly dynamic efforts, but it did more than fine for itself. The soundfield proved to be consistently vivid and engaging. Elements popped up from all over the room and blended together with solid smoothness and clarity. When appropriate, pieces zipped from one spot to another and connected well. Big action setpieces scored the best, but even quieter moments showed good delineation and placement. This was a lively track that formed a strong soundscape.

Audio quality followed suit. I never noticed issues with intelligibility or edginess as I listened to dialogue. Instead, the lines were natural and concise. Music blasted with fine clarity and range, and the effects offered similar tones. I always felt the various elements were accurate and distinctive, and they presented strong depth when necessary. The mix used the subwoofer to good effect but resisted the urge to blast us with excessive bass. This was a terrific mix that added life to the movie.

What made the DTS track better than the Dolby one? Some of the usual suspects, as it presented a more seamless soundfield and stronger definition. The Dolby mix was a little more “speaker-specific” and lacked quite the same life and punch. On its own, it worked just fine, but in comparison, the DTS track came across as more involving and dynamic.

As we head to the set’s extras, we find a pair of audio commentaries. The first presents remarks from director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and actors Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion.

And a chatty piece it is! The men interact well to make this a lively conversation. They discuss songs and music, second unit photography, visual effects and puppets, costumes and characters, sets and locations, stunts, and many notes from the set. A lot of these take a humorous bent, such as the many cracks on Mos Def’s tendency to fall asleep at the drop of a hat or Sam Rockwell’s nuttiness. There’s a lot more happy talk than I’d like and I can’t say this acts as a terrific encapsulation of the production. Still, the mix of decent data with mirth makes it worthwhile and enjoyable.

For the second commentary, we hear from executive producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams’ colleague Sean Solle. Both men sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. Though the piece starts slowly, it picks up a bit as it progresses. Stamp and Solle mostly cover thoughts of Adams and his work as well as variations among different incarnations of Guide. We learn about a few production topics as well, but the emphasis sticks with Adams-related issues. Too much dead air occurs, especially early, and we get a lot of the usual praise. Despite those problems, this piece adds a more personal touch about the Guide’s creator and it provides some decent information.

A short Making of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy runs eight minutes, 55 seconds. It mixes movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and comments from Jennings, Freeman, Goldsmith and actors Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Warwick Davis and Sam Rockwell. We hear a little about why Jennings took the project, the cast and their activities, approaches to characters, costumes, alien designs, sets and effects. Despite a promotional bent, this featurette is definitely better than usual, especially when Rockwell discusses his take on Zaphod. It’s too short to muster a lot of depth, but it has more than a few good tidbits.

A 44-second Additional Guide Entry covers the non-existence of God. Jennings mentions this in the commentary, so it’s good to see. Three Deleted Scenes appear. We get “Earth: Mostly Harmless” (48 seconds), “’We’re Going to Win’” (0:26) and “Impossible Forces” (0:59). We also find two Really Deleted Scenes: “Do Panic!” (1:51) and “Arthur Escapes” (0:56). The first three are real cut sequences; nothing too consequential appears, though “Forces” shows some romance between Zaphod and Questular Rontak. The two “Really Deleted Scenes” are comic pieces of overacting and silliness obviously never meant for the movie.

Next comes a Sing Along for “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!” This runs the scene from the movie with bouncing-ball style lyrics. It’s cute and that’s it. The same goes for Marvin’s Hangman. Instead of building a man who dies, each wrong letter selection deletes part of Marvin. Every word includes only four letters, and five wrong choices completely disassembles the robot. It entertains for a moment at most.

A mix of ads open the DVD. We get promos for Flightplan, The Chronicles of Narnia, Dark Water and Lost. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with trailers for Chicken Little, Aliens of the Deep, Beautiful People and TV on DVD.

Finally, the disc features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

Fitfully funny and inventive, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy never quite lives up to its potential. It presents more than enough cleverness and humor to make it enjoyable, but it remains a moderate disappointment. The DVD offers lackluster visuals with excellent audio and a decent set of extras. Give this one a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.625 Stars Number of Votes: 24
5 3:
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