A few bumps in galactic trip

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 June, 2005, 12:00am

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a modestly entertaining sci-fi comedy that fails to meet the high standard set by Douglas Adams' original novel.

This is not to say that the film, directed by Garth Jennings, is poor. It has a few humorous and inspired moments, in addition to some interesting special effects. But the brilliant bits and pieces fail to add up to a satisfying whole, and the film is marred by weak characters and incoherent storytelling.

The film opens promisingly with a hilarious musical sequence in which dolphins flee from Earth. The planet will soon be blown up by Vogons - brutal and bureaucratic aliens - to make way for a 'hyperspace freeway'.

Meanwhile, Arthur (Martin Freeman) is seen lying in front of a bulldozer to prevent his house from being razed.

He is saved by his best friend Ford (Mos Def), who helps Arthur to jet off into space and hitch a quick ride on the Vogons' spacecraft before the world explodes.

With the help of an electronic book, titled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur and Ford travel across the universe in search of adventure, romance and the meaning of life.

The first 30 minutes of the film, especially the scene in which a Vogon reads lousy poems to torment Ford and Arthur, is so promisingly funny that you will be expecting a classic comedy full of wit, irony and humour.

Unfortunately, the fun is not sustained. By the middle of it, most viewers will find themselves as lost as Arthur.

The real disappointment of the film is its inability to show the ironies and absurdities of life - something that Adams had wonderfully achieved in the book without losing any of the story's goofball humour.

The book's deep messages are often offset by silly jokes. Most of the time, the film merely pokes fun at the characters, rather than reflecting on humanity as a whole.

As is always the case, the book is better than the film.