Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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In October of 19-ought-93, when there were only three books in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy [H2G2] trilogy (there are now 5), I played three roles in the Menlo Players Guild production of an excellent stage play, Edit: adapted by Jonathan Petherbridge, based on those three books:

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Life, the Universe, and Everything
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I played an Islington townsperson, Slartibartfast, and The Captain in the Bath. There are some video clips of me doing those last two, just click on the character's name to see them. Anywho, the show was a smashing success, sold out every night for a month, and was one of the best non-musical experiences I ever had.

So it was with some excitement that I saw H2G2 was finally made into a movie, and was opening April 29.

I was booked for the 29th, so I went the following morning. The theater was only about 2/3 full. The audience was kind of quiet. Lots of children too young to be fans. Lots of parents who probably thought it was a good show for the kiddies. It is not.

It didn't suck. It didn't stink. It was mediocre. Casting was so-so. Ford was played by a black guy, which could have worked extremely well if the actor in question had any talent. Mos Def does not. In case you have never heard of him, it might be because he's sometimes credited as:
Dante Bezé
Bizet Dante
Smith Dante
Dante Terrell Smith
Dante Smith
Black Star
Or it may be because he's not a very good actor.

On the other hand, Martin Freeman was perfect as Arthur Dent. He even looked like the original BBC actor in that part. Zooey Deschanel played Trillian, and she did a very good job with the script they gave her. One huge problem with this movie is they dumbed her part down so much it was not the same character as in the book. In the book, Trillian is a gorgeous babe who can compute cube roots and do celestial navigation in her head. In the movie she is a gorgeous dunce.

Which brings us to Zaphod Beeblebrox. Sam Rockwell is about as poor an actor as Mos Def, only where Mos is dull and boring, Sam is Kurt Cobain on six kinds of speed. Zaphod has two heads. In the books the heads are always arguing with each other. The way they choose to do this special effect in the movie is quite clever and surprising, but it didn't work for me. The way they did it, only one head could talk at a time. In the stage play, we put two men into a single suit. The suit pants had three legs. The shirt had two necks. It worked amazingly well, in part because the two faces and personalities were very different. Not so in the movie. And just like Trillian, they dumbed down Zaphod enormously, which just did not make any sense.

Good news: Slartibartfast, my favorite character, kept almost all his original lines intact, and mostly in the same order and in the same context. Bad news: Bill Nighy, who appears to be a fine actor, was another mis-cast. His Slarty is mild-mannered, and on the young side of middle age. The book has him as ancient and a major cynic. Something of a curmudgeon. Blame that one on bad directing.

Marvin the robot's voice was ably done by the talented Alan Rickman, but they chose to make the actual robot costume something that looked like the Michelin Man exposed to too much radiation, and stuff a child inside. Huge head, small body. Again, it didn't work.

Something else which didn't work was the Guide itself. The BBC programme did a wonderful job on the graphics, the movie made it look like a third rate web page. Childish graphics, pull-down menus, horrid color scheme.

They spent a lot of time on Magrathea, which was nice, but they completely nuked the Captain in the Bath, the Restaurant at the end of the Universe, and the Final Answer.

And they added a new scene and character - Humma Kavula, an ersatz High Priest of an invented religion, played by John Malkovich, doing his best Elton John impression. Or maybe that was just the costume they put him in. That whole sub-plot just wasted my time.

There also was a lot of crap added about the Vogons, who play way too large a role in the movie. They have somehow become the Galactic Police, which they have nothing to do with in the books.

Bottom line - if you haven't seen it in the theaters, don't. Rent it on DVD. There are sure to be some excellent deleted scenes and outtakes worth the Netflix rental price.

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