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Directed by: Garth Jennings. Written by: Douglas Adams (book), Douglas Adams (screenplay) and Karey Kirkpatrick (screenplay). Starring: Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell. 109 min. USA/UK.

By Sam Gerrans

Review top sheet: based on the original British low-budget radio series and later low-budget TV series, this Hollywood attempt to generate batty “Briddish” humour in the shape of a Douglas Adams’ epitaph (granted, he wasn’t dead when they started) has got to be the worst film in the history of the universe.

Will you like this film?

Yes, if: you’re under ten, have recently had a lobotomy and have been locked out of your flat till your mum gets back in exactly 109 minutes’ time
No, if: the random musings of a John Cleasian understudy don’t do it for you
Maybe, if: you’re writing a thesis on why “Briddish” humour should not – under any circumstances – be touched by the corporate wand

Comments: I won’t beat about the bush: this film is crud.

It is an insult to the intellect, the aesthetic sense and the innate, genuine inclination to seek for truth which not a few of us on Planet Earth seem to suffer from.

The story has been re-engineered to comply with the dictates of the fascistic social engineering project known as political correctness (thus, Arthur Dent’s key companion, Ford Prefect, has been turned into a Black man… it’s all so tedious).

And, more annoyingly, neither Dent nor Prefect can act worth a damn, and the new Ford Prefect’s diction is so ambiguous I wanted subtitles.

Let’s be honest, the original was crap, too. But it worked because it didn’t try not to be. It was low-budget silliness. The TV production looked like what it was: a bunch of students with a very limited budget dicking about. You could take it or leave it.

What the US producers of this film haven't understood is this: low-tech "Briddish" humour simply doesn't scale up by stuffing lots of money in the pot. It was "Briddish" in some part simply because it was small and crap. When it gets a major injection of US corporate money, it becomes big and crap, but in a totally "un-Briddish" way. Such upscaling has to be done very, very carefully to work. The "Red Dwarf" series on Briddish TV managed to pull it off - going from low budget to medium budget without losing what made the low-budget original worth watching. But the makers of this film haven't come close to negotiating the problems of scale.

In short, this film has nothing of the (admittedly dubious) charm of the low-budget original, and nothing original of itself – other than special effects – to offer, either.

Scarily, the ending foreshadows a sequel journey to the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Personally, I’d rather go hungry.

Out-of-five star ratings:

• Story:
• Dialogue: *
• Substance:
• Film craft: **

Story comments: the story is a random and unsatisfying collage of inanity underpinned by a somewhat repellent comic-book theology. Its catalogue of bizarre and unrelated events is neither profound enough to be interesting nor funny enough to be compelling.

There is no thread or plot as such, just expensive silliness going nowhere interesting or amusing. Having said that, I did like the bit where the whale falls to earth. But it was hardly enough to justify a full 109 minutes of my life.

Within this surreal framework there is a lame, suburban attempt to generate a love story but, personally, I couldn’t have cared less.

Dialogue comments: I have a soft spot for Stephen Fry (who narrates). He could make the London A-Z sound interesting.

But the key players, namely Mos Def (Ford Prefect), Zooey Deschanel (Trillian), and Martin Freeman (Arthur Dent) seem to be fresh out of a community school Christmas play. The personal energy levels were so low that even the intensely vibrant Sam Rockwell couldn’t lift the whole thing more than a couple of inches off the assembly hall floor.

Substance comments: er, pass.

Film craft: the stars of the show are the Vogan puppets. I hope some competent producer decides to make a truly gruesome children’s story using the makers of these puppets. That would be worth a watch.

A taste of the story: mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect.


Sam Gerrans is a freelance writer and translator: http://samgerrans.com.

10.07.05
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