Growing up “born again,” you heard sermons on all kinds of subjects—like “no dancing,” because you can’t witness on the dance floor. Or “no movies on Sunday,” because the Rapture could happen and you didn’t want Jesus to catch you in a theater.
I ignored the latter warning and caught “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” last Sunday afternoon. The Rapture didn’t happen, but I almost fell asleep during the movie. That never happens to me.
Fans of Douglas Adams’ cult books are familiar with the story. The movie begins with Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) awakening in his proper British home to find bulldozers in his yard. His home is in the right of way for a new by-pass.
Arthur tries to stop the destruction, but gets pulled away by his friend, Ford Perfect (Mos Def). Ford tells Arthur the problem with his house is small compared to the real problem: Earth will be destroyed in a few minutes to make way for a galactic by-pass. Ford knows this because he is not an Earthling, but an alien.
Ford’s motivation is that Arthur saved him upon their meeting, so he saves Arthur—by letting him hitch a ride on a passing space ship.
The space ship is piloted by Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the galaxy’s president, who is a tad off-center. Zaphod acts insane, and it’s not because he has three arms and two heads. In fact, things get worse when he loses one of his heads.
Also on board is Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), an Earthling whom Arthur met earlier at a party.
Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian go forth into the galaxy in search of the ultimate question—not the answer, but the question. They already know the answer, which is 42. The question is another story.
They get chased over the galaxy by Vogons, a race that holds to strict bureaucratic protocol. The Vogons do nothing without the proper paperwork. That’s bad if you need to enact business, but good if you’re trying to escape from them and their lunch whistle blows.
The movie has heart, but if you haven’t read the book and become familiar with Douglas Adams’ universe, you might get lost. The movie has a very British sense of humor and requires a certain sensibility to see why things are funny.
I felt like I was with a group of people who had their own language and mores—sort of like being in a foreign land, where you often feel you either missed something or just aren’t smart enough to catch on to what’s taking place.
If you love Douglas Adams, go see the movie. If you’ve never heard of Douglas Adams, it may be hard to get the point. As for me, I think I may go to the movies again on Sunday, but I hope what I see makes more sense.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, action and mild language.
Director: Garth Jennings
Writers: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick
Cast: Arthur Dent: Martin Freeman; Ford Perfect: Mos Def; Trillian: Zooey Deschanel; Zaphod Beeblebrox: Sam Rockwell; Humma Kavula: John Malkovich; Voice of Marvin: Alan Rickman.
The movie’s official Web site is here.