A 'Hitchhiker's Guide' to Sharp Wit; but 'Galaxy' of Repartee Hampered by Plot Limits

Article excerpt

Byline: Scott Galupo, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Since the "Star Wars" franchise has become an unfunny parody of itself, the world needs a real science fiction comedy. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," more sophisticated in its repartee but just as spoofy as Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs," does the trick quite nicely.

The Anglo-American co-production is based on the BBC radio and novel series by Douglas Adams, who died four years ago but is credited posthumously as screenwriter here. Garth Jennings, until now a music video director, is at the helm of Her Majesty's very wacky, very mordantly funny spaceship.

Imagine the Monty Python crew on an intergalactic voyage on which government, religion and fame are mocked at hyperspace speed. The movie brings up questions of epistemology and the origins of the universe, and then laughs in your egghead face.

There's even a romance, albeit a puny one, wrapped in all the misanthropic sarcasm. It's a gesture that says, "Forget about those pesky first things. Love is all you need."

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of British TV's "The Office") is an average bloke living on a plot in the English countryside. In his bathrobe and slippers one morning, he's given some bad news by a demolition crew: His house is about to become the casualty of a highway project.

No big deal in the galactic scheme of things, as the entire planet is about to suffer the same fate. Goodbye, third rock from the sun. Hello, "hyperspace expressway."

When the Earth does explode, the scene looks a lot like the shattering planet Krypton did in the first "Superman," when the red sun got too close. Don't expect much in the way of cutting-edge special effects here; they're all part of the slapstick. Example: The Volgon creatures, the ones who turn Earth into a trillion-billion shards, look like giant walruses in black wet suits.

Of the 6 billion souls on Earth, Arthur is rescued by a space hitchhiker named Ford (rapper Mos Def, dryly funny) as a return favor - Arthur had previously saved Ford's life.

After an encounter with the vicious Volgons, the pair winds up on an eyeball-shaped craft manned by Sam Rockwell's Zaphod Beeblebrox, the fey, playboy president of the galaxy. …