Honestly, even though I was pleased when they finally started actually making it, I was expecting it to be cheesy. The first trailer I saw put those fears to rest, but then I started hearing bad review buzz in the past few days.
After seeing the movie, Michael and I think those reviewers probably haven't read the book.
This movie is a delight. The scenery looks great, especially the sequence in the planet factory. The casting is pitch-perfect. I have to sheepishly admit that I was skeptical about a rapper as Ford Prefect, but now I can't picture anyone but Mos Def in that role. (Was he wearing white Converse high-tops? I hope I was right on that. Hee, just like Edward Gorey's Doubtful Guest.) Sam Rockwell is a scenery-chewing dervish as Zaphod (in retrospect, I am so grateful Jim Carrey didn't end up with the role). Alan Rickman fucking rules as Marvin, as if you had any doubt. Martin Freeman is the perfect Arthur, and Zooey Deschanel makes Trillian so competent and likable (and damn cute!) that though I was initially skeptical about the new emphasis on the Arthur/Trillian romance, it ended up really working for me. It made sense, because the book, as hysterical as it is, doesn't necessarily have the most cogent plot, and this helped the movie hang together. More on that later.
The Guide is brilliant. I'm going to have to get the DVD just so I can see all the little in-jokes in the interface that went by too fast. And I am hoping for some nifty DVD extras involving the Guide.
One of the best things was the obvious amount of care that went into the movie. Though it's not mentioned, the head of the demolition crew tearing down Arthur's house looks Mongolian. It was also wonderful seeing it with a crowd of hoopy froods who obviously knew where their towels were (I was the one who reminded Michael and his parents that we all needed to bring our towels) and cheered at all the right moments, especially the "For Douglas" dedication at the end. How I wish he could have been here for this.
Also, learning from IMDB (which has some nifty trivia) that Douglas Adams himself was behind the changes made me feel a lot better about the deviations. It probably also helps that I haven't read the book in a few years and get a little foggy on some of the details. I should also point out that I am really not as much of a purist as most of the people I know when it comes to book-to-film adaptations. They're two different mediums, so I really don't mind most changes as long as they don't really suck.
I know a lot of people are going to be bitching about the increased romance and the super-happy ending, but the way I see it is, in a lot of ways the Hitchiker's Guide is a book written by a young man, stuffed full of as many jokes as possible and not so concerned with emotion. But the movie script, to me, shows the touch of an older, wiser Douglas Adams: yes, you need the jokes, but you also need heart -- not just romantic, but friendship and optimism and a really likable Slartibartfast. I think the movie does a great job of balancing the two. I laughed till I hurt, but I also ended up feeling good and happy and optimistic, which frankly yesterday was something I really needed.
In short, it was even better than I expected. Geeks rejoice!