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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is partly kooky and partly philosophical, and not always accessible to younger kids. While the slapstick (pratfalls, face slaps) and puns can be amusing, the chatter alternates between clever and tedious. Characters drink beer and use mild language. Parents should also know that the movie has some scary, if abstract moments (the earth is destroyed from outer space; the image features no people, but the globe does go pffft), some shooting of science-fiction-ish weapons, a few odd, large, ugly creatures.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY begins as two friends, nerdish human Arthur (Martin Freeman) and space traveler Ford (Mos Def), depart Earth just before it's demolished by the universe-roving Vogons, looking to make room for a "hyperspace bypass" (this parallels the destruction of Arthur's small home by a road crew building a highway bypass). Arthur and Ford (who brings along his book, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) hitch a ride with the self-loving, two-headed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and his girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). As Arthur also has a crush on Trillian, he endeavors to win her attention. In search of the meaning of life, the crew visit with diverse communities on different planets, including a cult led by Humma Kavula (John Malkovich), who ritually worship a sneeze, and an architect of custom planets Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who offers to rebuild earth for the currently homeless Arthur.
Is it any good?
Perhaps this film's most provocative innovation is the POV (point of view) Gun, with which the shooter can instantly impose his perspective on a target. The Guide narrator tells us the gun was invented by "a group of housewives who had become utterly sick of ending every domestic argument with the words, 'You just don't get it, do you?'" Once Trillian gets a hold of this potent weapon, her vulnerability is exposed, which means she finally seems to break through Zaphod and Arthur's self-obsessions. But as the film never suggests how her life will improve once they "get it," Trillion seems left adrift.
Based on Douglas Adams' beloved BBC radio series (first aired in 1978, and thereafter turned into novel and TV series), this movie has been in the works, in some format, for over 20 years. This means that some of the ideas, in being faithful to the source also feel dated, that is, not new insights (media are deceitful, corporate workers are boring and shortsighted, boys are nervous about expressing their feelings to girls... well, okay, some old concerns remain unresolved).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the friendship between Arthur and Ford, who learn to appreciate each other's different perspectives and look out for one another. Families might also consider the symbolic roles played by the aliens Arthur meets (the two-headed president of the galaxy; the lumbering bureaucratic race called Vogons; the generous, sensitive Ford), or Arthur's passivity: how does he learn to act on his desires, look out for his friends, or have self-confidence? How can you define "normality"?
- In theaters: April 29, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: September 13, 2005
- Cast: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel
- Director: Garth Jennings
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, action and mild language
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