The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Garth Jennings

If it existed (and if it did, I'd own one), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would have some hilarious and biting things to say about the nature of geeks, the subset of sci-fi and British comedy geeks in particular. Fiercely loyal yet terribly critical, these uber-fans are the hardest to please yet form the core audience for the work of writer/creators like Douglas Adams. They tune their fake plastic antennae particularly to anything potentially inauthentic, and thus the adaptors of Adams's lifelong project face a tough row to hoe. And they do a brilliant job of it. After nigh-on 20 years of work (by Adams himself, let's be clear) to bring the onetime radio program, book and television series to the big screen, the result is both delightfully true and thrillingly new, a balance of familiar "quote along at home" lines and fantastic fresh ideas. In the hands of director Garth Jennings, the story of earth descendent Arthur Dent (The Office's Martin Freeman) and alien Ford Prefect (the nuttily perfect Mos Def), and their encounters with the President of the Universe (an even more nutty Sam Rockwell) and a planet full of bureaucrats. The primary challenge for Jennings is to carve a forward-moving narrative out of what amounts to a series of clever asides on the ridiculous nature of human culture; he succeeds in both maintaining that spirit and moving the story forward. While some of the aforementioned scrupulous geeks might chafe at some "new" additions to the story, commentary by an executive producer and Adams colleague Sean Solle reveal Adams himself as the source of most new material (particularly the Vogon home planet, where original thought will get you a smack in the face). Its evolution in a new medium is right in line with Adams's working process all along: from radio to book to TV and now to film, no version was ever viewed as complete; the changes found here are usually specific to the challenges of a two-hour film (both TV and radio topped at least four hours). For a movie with such a storied development history, the featurettes on the DVD are disappointingly typical; fans will find some favourite moments in a handful of deleted scenes, but it's the two commentaries (the other by producers and various actors, including the brilliant Bill Nighy, aka Slartibartfast) that provide the revealing nuggets. Hitchhiker's Guide as a film fits perfectly into the rest of its incarnations: it can't be absorbed in one viewing and grows on you as you explore its subtle intricacies both familiar and new. Soon enough, this adaptation will simply settle into geek lore, as the once-criticised TV show has, as another iteration of the brilliant mind of Douglas Adams. Plus: "So Long and Thanks For All the Fish" sing-along, game, more. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)