After eagerly counting down the days, it became apparent to me that I wasn't actually going to be able to see the movie during the first week of release. I finally got there on Saturday, when the weather conspired to wash out an also long-awaited golf date with friends. Here then, finally, is my review.
The opening sequence with dolphins initially seemed to go on too long. Then I realized that going on about it too long it was a subtle joke, and I thought it was typical Adams. Then I realized that the action was commencing with no mention at all of the girl sitting in the cafe in Rickmansworth who figured out how to make everyone in the world happy but didn't have time to get to the phone before the Vogons destroyed the Earth, and I was disappointed. I also noticed that Ford convincing Mr. Prosser to lie down in front of the bulldozer in Arthur's place was cut, and was disappointed again. Then I let go and decided to let myself enjoy the movie for what it was instead of fixating on what it wasn't. From that point, I was able to enjoy the slight plot changes from the book and appreciate the little things that did make it in, like the whale and the bowl of petunias -- which would have been very easy for them to leave out.
Marvin was a big hit with the kids. I thought Marvin was too small and I thought he should have been more metallic and boxy in appearance, but his attitude was right on the mark and Alan Rickman was a perfect choice for the role. Even if the rest of the books aren't made into films, I think that Marvin might have a future as a cartoon character aimed at kids. Ford kind of disappeared a little too much into the background after the first half hour of the film, which was disappointing because Mos Def was surprisingly (to me) well-suited for the role. Slartibartfast was not quite what I expected, but in a good way, with a little more depth than I would have expected for a relatively minor character introduced late in the film. Sam Rockwell as Zaphod was suitably over-the-top, but it was Zooey Deschanel who I think nailed her characterization of Trillian the best. She had the right mix of flakiness and practicality, making her character's acceptance of what was going on feel right, as opposed to Arthur's whose acceptance of his situation was just too easy. I suppose they didn't have time for much of Arthur's fussing, but I think they could have at least given him the opportunity to do one good extended riff on the lack of a decent cup of tea.
It's a good film, not a great film. It seems to me that it was meant to appeal to two audiences: devoted Douglas Adams fans, and children. I brought my youngest daughter, who has not read the books but who saw the commercials and decided that she wanted to see it, and she enjoyed it. We went with a group of friends and their children as well, and everyone seemed to have had a good time. Adults who haven't read the books are likely to be thrown into a state of utter confusion at the point where Arthur and Ford are briefly (and infinitely improbably) turned into sofas, but kids aren't hampered as much by expectations that things should make sense so they can follow along readily. Much of the dialog goes by too quickly for adults to catch it's subtletly, but for kids the physical humor is plenty funny. OK, I enjoyed the physical comedy, too. The reaction shot when Ford and Zaphod had their Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster was great.
One last thing. Having read the books quite a few times, but not in recent years, I had missed this connection until it jumped out at me from the file. The home planet of the Vogons is Vogsphere. That is just way too close to Websphere to be mere coincidence. Large. Slow. Dedicated to ripping out the old infrastructure to make way for new infrastructure that it isn't clear that anyone wants or needs. Bogged down by overhead and complex rules... Yep! It all begins to make sense now ;-)
1. Chris Linfoot05/09/2005 09:55:31 AM
On the subject of *sphere, you forgot BlogSphere (which is also closer to Vogsphere; V ==> Bl instead of Vog ==> Web).
Not sure an analogy makes much sense there though
2. Brian Benz05/09/2005 12:59:55 PM
3. Richard Schwartz05/09/2005 01:31:46 PM
Actually, Chris, I did think of that, but since I had no witty comment to make about Blogsphere I decided to leave it as an exercise for the readers to discover on their own.