Let me paint a weird picture for you: After a few years of being gently nudged to see this movie, I finally saw it at this awesome theater in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had been traveling with my buddy for awhile, and we needed to recline lavishly and watch something semi-familiar. He fell asleep, and I stayed awake somehow and witnessed Sam Rockwell’s head flip back and forth.
I don’t completely understand what happened plot-wise, because I never read the book as a kid. But despite its oddness, I saw the appeal right away. It was cleverly cast, with Rockwell being his weird self (and with more limbs!) and Zooey Deschanel being her cute self and Martin Freeman being his charming self and Mos Def stepping in and stealing the spotlight from all of them. Of course, other cool people were dotted throughout (Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman’s disembodied voice, probably some other actors from Love Actually that I’m forgetting right now), but Mos Def really killed it. Apparently his character was “Ford Prefect.” I don’t remember that at all, but I remember finding him to be one of the most fascinating, realistic characters I had ever seen portrayed, which is high praise considering how completely absurd the whole movie is. He came across as completely unpredictable, and interesting, and sensitive, and thus human. In a story about space. Good on you, Mr. Def.
I often have a low tolerance for cheesy special effects or “cult classic” type movies. And this one, with all of its Britishness, could have easily annoyed me. (See: Doctor Who. I tried. I couldn’t.) But it, along with the theater I saw it in, showed me that a dash of Sam Rockwell and a dollop of Mos Def can make most things great when they should be just fine. It’s hard not to smile at two unlikely strangers hurtling through space, nonsensically.