When Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Arthur Dent finds out that his friend, Ford Prefect, is an alien from a planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. After hitching a ride from the Vogons, Arthur and Ford meet the crew of the ‘Heart of Gold’ spaceship; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian and Marvin the Paranoid Android. What follows is a series of adventures across space, finding out the meaning of life and ceaselessly searching for a nice cup of tea.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005) – Director: Garth Jennings

Is the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy appropriate for young kids?

Rating: PG

Running Length: 109 mins

Starring: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comedy

REVIEW

It was a long time coming, but after being launched as a radio show in 1978, released as a series of 5 books between 1979 and 1992, squashed into an inexplicably hard computer game in 1984 and adapted into a six part BBC series in 1981; ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ finally made it to the big screen in 2005. The trick was always going to be extracting the best of the material from the various formats but this big budget outing of a very English tale has, in our opinion, managed to retain the core of Douglas Adams’ deft talent for language, whilst maybe losing a little of the depth of the universe he created.

The plot gets a little muddled from time to time and for people not familiar with the story it may seem like events lurch from one location to another with no real rhyme or reason. It is evident in some parts that trying to make the meandering plot of ‘Hitchhikers’ fit into a straight up cinema release meant squashing in some rather contrived new elements (not likely helped by Adams’ untimely death shortly before the film was green-lit). But although this does sometimes fall flat (like when we get side tracked with a visit to the planet of Viltvodle VI for reasons swiftly forgotten afterwards), on other occasions it actually adds a pleasantly new touch (like the dead-brained bureaucracy of Vogsphere where any new idea by the inhabitants means a slap in the face).

What the movie version does have in spades is charm, both for children and adults. Martin Freeman is an excellent choice as the befuddled and put upon Arthur Dent finding himself lost in space in just his bathrobe, vainly hoping that a cup of tea will materialise. Mos Def as Ford Prefect (Arthur’s best, and as it turns out, alien, friend) makes for a much warmer character than in some previous versions and Zooey Deschanel adds a bit of humanity to Trillian; the girl who left for an adventure but instead misses the familiarity of what she has lost. The visuals are stunning to look at and great care has clearly been poured over every scene. In terms of a young audience there is a little slapstick and a few amusingly bizarre moments (like when Ford and Arthur find themselves turned into furniture) but this is still Adams’ work folded into a big budget production; the nature of the humour is always going to be in the achingly clever dialogue and this is something that may be a little lost on younger viewers.

IS ‘THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

While fully deserving of its PG rating, Douglas Adams’ source material has never exactly been child friendly if for no other reasons than complexity and rather flippant attitude to unjust death. While director Garth Jennings has helped imbue the story with a bit more of a human touch he has also kept this film adaptation close to the tone of the original story.

The Vogons in particular are cruel and look frightening. These are a blend of puppets, animatronics and costumes resulting in huge 8 foot tall disfigured creatures that lumber about with sluggish slowness. Their faces are green and hideous and there are several close up shots that linger on their ugly faces, although this is never really played for fear, more disgust. They are callously indifferent to the suffering of others and at one point early in their introductory scene they are shown to pick out a large crab from a pool of water and, while it tries to run off, they smash it with a huge hammer. The other crabs in the pool screech in terror and hide in the murky depths. There is also a brief shot showing the statue of a delicate looking deer which has been grotesquely deformed by having its back broken.

The character of Zaphod Beeblebrox (President of the Galaxy) is charming but can be particularly arrogant and obnoxious. When he is first introduced, he is wearing very tight lycra shorts. He also has two heads which he uses by suddenly snapping back his ‘main’ head and revealing another directly beneath it. At one point, he also slaps Trillian’s bottom, much to her disgust and then starts slapping himself with his third hand saying ‘Stop it! I’m just kidding, I like it rough’. The second head is described as housing his less than presidential character traits. At one point it pops up and threatens Arthur by saying ‘I’ll pull your spleen out through your throat’.

Perhaps the most frightening scene is when John Malkovich’s character, Humma Kavula, is introduced. The ‘Heart of Gold’ crew are on a planet whose inhabitants believe in a god which has ‘sneezed’ them into existence and they pray for the coming of ‘The Great White Handkerchief’ to wipe them clean. While this is a comedic scene, the religion appears to be very similar to Catholicism and the flippant nature of this could be offensive to some people. After the service, Kavula displays his true nature to the crew. He takes his glasses off and with them, his eyes; revealing black holes where his eyes should be. He also only has half a body, using robotic, spider-leg like appendages to move around. He decides to take Zaphod’s second head as a hostage and, in silhouette, he stands over a frightened Zaphod with a lowering buzz saw. Still in silhouette, the head is removed but it continues to talk and wise-crack so Zaphod doesn’t really suffer from this. When the crew leave Kavula, they are confronted by an army of Vogon soldiers. This is at night and the dark figures have lights for eyes and cages around their mouths, making them look much scarier than earlier in the movie.

Another instance of an unnecessary animal death is when a sperm whale is suddenly called into existence. It falls through the air from a great height and tries to understand itself and its environment. It has a friendly inner monologue which lasts 1-2 minutes but is then killed when it crashes to the ground. We don’t see the impact directly as it happens behind a mountain range, but there is a clear ‘boom’ noise and a visual shockwave. This is likely to upset younger viewers who are distressed by animals dying, especially as this is played as a comedy scene and is therefore not likely to be the expected fate for the whale.

Towards the end of the movie, Arthur is taken captive and his kidnappers try to remove his brain with a buzz saw. This could be quite frightening for younger viewers as the kidnappers converse in a friendly and matter of fact manner, not understanding why Arthur wants to keep hold of his brain!

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

While there are other questionable moments in ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’, we feel that we have highlighted the strongest examples and if a child will be ok with these scenes, the rest of the movie should not be a problem for them. We feel that, depending upon their sensibilities, this film should be suitable for children aged 8 and over, although we would recommend that some children between 8 and 10 may need to be supervised in case any scenes are too scary for them. Most of the humour comes from the clever, and occasionally dense, dialogue and some of it may be lost on younger viewers – who may then only experience the more intimidating and helpless moments without the light relief that the humour provides.

  • Violence:  2/5 (the Vogons are quite violent although this is more dialogue based than visual. They are bureaucratic and, whilst not killing for pleasure per se, are completely indifferent to murdering someone if it means their paperwork can be correct)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (the Earth is destroyed (with all its inhabitants) at the beginning of the movie. Towards the end, one of the main characters is shot in the head and falls to the ground, the others are upset but this is a brief moment and shouldn’t cause too much trauma)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (Kavula and the Vogons can be frightening)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (there is a completely unnecessary scene where Trillian is in the shower and Arthur stands next to her, talking. Although Arthur has feelings for Trillian, this scene isn’t sexual in nature)
  • Bad Language: 2/5 (some mild to moderate bad language is used. One moderate word is pointedly used and could potentially be repeated by children)
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (mild threats)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of the benefit of having a good nature, the bizarre pointlessness of existence, making the best of a bad situation and not wasting the opportunity to experience new things.

Words by Laura Record and Mike Record


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