An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            My younger friends had warned me that my unfamiliarity with the writer Douglas Adams would doom me to the bewilderment of the ignorant during “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  It would be, they said, like seeing the Rings or Harry Potter without reading the books.  They underestimated Mr. Adams.   An adaptation must at least try to stand alone, to give us first-timers something to enjoy without knowing the backstory, and this clever movie does just that.  Because it’s a case of one’s pleasure being  another’s poison, I’ll describe it a bit, and urge you decide for yourself whether it’s for you.

            Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) lies in front of the bulldozer that is about to level his beloved house.  His neighbors have already fallen to the blade to make way for an intergalactic freeway.  Earth will be destroyed.  Arthur’s friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), a visiting alien doing research for a hitchhiker’s guide, uses his ring to beam himself and Arthur back up to the spaceship of the Vogons – a group of beings who look like Shrek reimagined as a monster.  The Vogons write “the third worst piety in the universe” and they read bestsellers like “God’s Greatest Mistakes.”  In a barb that unaccountably summoned George Bush, someone says of the Vogons, “They can’t think or spell or imagine.”  Galaxy president Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) moans,  “I’m not going to find something else for my entire life to be about….you can’t be president with a whole brain.”

             We meet Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), a smart earthling, and Marvin, possibly the most appealing robot ever to fall from the pen of an animator.  “I have an exceptionally large mind,” Arthur says as we examine his enormous white ball of a head with two expressive green triangle eyes.  Marvin wants no ideas, no thinking, and no theories.  

            Who cannot love this:  a knife that toasts bread as it slices through it; a frame you rest your head in that produces exactly what you want – a jelly doughnut, for instance; a door that sighs, and perhaps best of all, a gun designed by “Deep Thought” that allows you to shoot your thought process at someone who will then think exactly the way you want him to.  Delicious.

The characters begin to ask universal questions through a lovely system of normality, probability and improbability. What’s normal?  What’s home? A devout group of worshippers intones, “We lift our noses, blown and unblown, to you.”  People practice Hyperspatial Engineering – the building of planets.  Watch them building a back-up Earth.  Which one do we live on now? What color, really, are the Norwegian fjords?

            Listen very closely because Douglas Adams, who died before the film was finished, was a clever man who thinks, has ideas, and propounds theories forbidden in the Galaxy and in much of America today.   His words and imagery stay with you in a most wonderful way, especially Marvin, the wise, perceptive and endearing manic-depressive robot.  


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