Mostly Harmless 

Hitching a Ride with The Hitchhiker's Guide

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
dir. Jennings
Opens Fri April 29
Various Theaters

Contrary to what we might like to think, humans are only the third-most intelligent species on Earth. And when the second-most intelligent species (dolphins, of course) decides to leave the planet ("So long," they sing, "and thanks for all the fish"), it's a good guess that alien ships are about to blow the whole planet up.

The one survivor: A perplexed Brit, Arthur Dent, who's suddenly alone in a very bizarre galaxy, with just his one alien friend, named Ford Prefect, a towel, and a guidebook.

So begins The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the film version of Douglas Adams' 1979 cult classic of a comedy/sci-fi novel. Martin Freeman--most famous for playing Tim in the BBC's The Office--is perfect as the bewildered Arthur, as is Mos Def as the slightly less bewildered Ford. But the real stars are Sam Rockwell (as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the tripped-out President of the Galaxy) and a depressed robot, Marvin (Warwick Davis and Alan Rickman). Those characters, along with director Garth Jennings' relentlessly witty visuals, make Hitchhiker's work. (What doesn't work: A painfully flat romance between Arthur and Zaphod's girlfriend, Trillian, played by Zooey Deschanel.)

In Adams' book, the plot was secondary to the author, who made his presence known via "excerpts" from the titular Guide. Here, Jennings pairs the Guide's narrator (Stephen Fry) with visuals from slick video collective Shynola to animate comic histories of the galaxy. They're the best parts of the film, most likely because they're when the presence of Adams--who died in 2001--can be felt the most. If Hitchhiker's is the sort of fun that the end of the world brings about, then it's really too bad that Earth didn't get destroyed a lot sooner.

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