"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the so-called first film of the summer season - even though we're still in April - is out in theaters, and whether you're a fan boy or someone who has never heard of the popular book before, you'll enjoy it - as long as you like weird, silly and oftentimes random humor. But just because you'll enjoy it doesn't mean you'll love it.
The basis for the plot is simple - one poor soul by the name of Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes up one morning to find that Earth has been slated for demolition to make room for a new galactic superhighway. Luckily for him, his best friend (Mos Def) happens to be an alien who knows how to hitchhike across the galaxy. They soon end up on a revolutionary starship commanded by the idiotic President of the Galaxy, who has kidnapped himself and is being pursued by some really ugly aliens - who are also trying to protect him at the same time. But the movie is less an adventure story and more a tool to be goofy in every single way and form. One scene has the characters getting attacked by desert spatulas. In another hilarious scene, the characters have been turned into yarn. In yet another scene, we get to hear the narration of a whale as it considers the meaning of life while falling through the sky to its eventual hard fall at the bottom. Yes, random. Yes, funny.
But how funny? You definitely have to be in the right state of mind. Is it dumb humor? No, not really. A lot of the gags are pretty clever, and the movie thankfully avoids toilet humor. Nonetheless, the same people who don't enjoy low-grade humor probably won't enjoy the humor here, even if the laughs aren't coming from the sewer. Let's just say "Hitchhiker" is like "Men in Black" meets "Dumb and Dumber," and is nothing like "Sideways."
The first half of the movie is mightily entertaining, with plenty of gags and goofy tidbits as we're introduced to new and weird characters. Marvin the depressed robot (voiced by Alan Rickman) is hilarious, and a long appearance by Bill Nighy near the end of the movie is a breath of fresh air. From a dolphin song about the end of the world and how they like fish to an air headed President of the Galaxy (played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell) who always has a twang of that Texas George W. Bush intellect, "Hitchhiker" has a lot of good jokes and uses many of them effectively.
Still, the movie is not without its slow parts, as some jokes just don't hit the mark and other sections barely have jokes to begin with. Unfortunately, a lot of these moments come near the end of the movie. "Hitchhiker," definitely not an action-comedy or even adventure-comedy aside from a few almost-exciting scenes where they're running from nuclear missiles or trying to escape the wrath of a couple deranged mice, really needed the comedy to go nonstop, but in the end it tries a little too hard to bring everything together. It even tries to do the romantic angle, but considering that eighty percent of the audience was men, it probably wasn't the best move. There were just too many parts that needed another joke or two.
"Hitchhiker" is funny, but by the time the third act comes around most of the jokes have been used up. I could handle sitting through this one again, but ultimately it could have and should have been a little better and a little more focused (if this movie can be even slightly focused). More than likely, it will turn out to be one of the better movies of the summer, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have been improved.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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