'Hitchhiker's Guide' Gets Lost

Now in theaters: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and "xXx: State of the Union."

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" -- a BBC radio show turned into a book that sold 14 million copies -- has its fans, but I can't see anyone who isn't a fan bothering with this movie.

After a brutish race of alien apparatchiks destroy the Earth to make way for the intergalactic equivalent of a freeway on-ramp, our planet's two survivors and a few others seek the answer to the meaning of life.

Because the film's low budget doesn't allow for the intergalactic equivalent of swimming across oceans, climbing mountains and crossing deserts, much of the movie happens on a spaceship set that looks like a leftover from a cheap 1960s TV show.

Our space travelers land on one planet where every time anyone has an idea he gets hit with a shovel that pops out of the ground. It's a good metaphor for the script as a whole.

Mos Def is a very talented actor, but aside from him, the cast virtually disappears into the scenery, and the scenery isn't very good. Fans will appreciate the film. But if anyone else wants to see it, visit me the next time you're in New York. I'll hit you with a shovel. You'll save $10 and the feeling will be about the same. Grade: C+

xXx: State of the Union

They're tunneling under in "XXX2." Are they looking for shovels that pop out of the ground and whack people in the head whenever they get an idea? No. Bad guys are invading a top-secret National Security Agency listening station. Expect to see some great toys, neat action and not much else.

"XXX2" is truly silly, but the action, directed by Lee Tamahori, is a very guilty pleasure and fun to watch.

Samuel L. Jackson is back as a National Security Agency honcho. In the first film, Vin Diesel was his XXX, and when he decided to quit the agency and spend more time with the kids, Jackson knew just who to call -- Ice Cube. The new recruit can do everything. He can fight. He can shoot. He can virtually fly. It'd be nice if he smiled, but you can't have everything.

Willem Dafoe, who still has green stuff under his fingernails from "Spider-Man," takes on another bad-guy role. He's the secretary of defense with a fiendish plot to assassinate the president during the State of the Union address and become the new commander in chief.

It'd help if they didn't get some things wrong, like the law of presidential succession. The filmmakers also don't seem to know that a captain in the Navy is equivalent to a colonel in the Army or that civilians can't win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Still, only one thing can save the democracy: Ice Cube. It's a good thing that the wheels on his AC Cobra match the president's train, or he wouldn't be on track to catch the bad guys. This is the silliest big-budget movie I have ever seen. Grade: C-