UK Release Date: 14th August 2015
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Terry Jones
Writer: Terry Jones, Gavin Scott
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Robin Williams, Rob Riggle, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Eddie Izzard, Joanna Lumley
Synopsis: A directionless teacher finds the entire future of the human race in his hands when aliens give him the power to make anything happen that he wants.
It’s rare to see the surviving members of the Monty Python comedy troupe work together on the big screen. They have teamed together, along with a roster of tremendous homegrown comedy talent, for charmingly parochial British film Absolutely Anything – Terry Jones’ first effort as a feature director for almost 90 years. Unfortunately, it’s not the sort of absurd genius we’ve come to expect from the legendary group.
Disillusioned teacher Neil (Simon Pegg) is frustrated with his lot in life, unable to even speak to Catherine (Kate Beckinsale) – the pretty woman who lives downstairs. Via the interference of an alien council (The Pythons), Neil is given the power to do anything he wants and the way he uses that power will decide the survival of the Earth. Initially, at least, signs are not promising given that Neil uses his powers to turn his friend (Sanjeev Bhaskar) into a deity, make his boss (Eddie Izzard) treat him better and give his dog a voice (Robin Williams).
It’s tough to pin down precisely what it is that prevents Absolutely Anything from hitting the comedic heights of its creators’ previous work. The central concept mixes Python and Douglas Adams to intriguing effect and the cast is uniformly made up of charming and proven talents. Add to that the final performance of the legendary Robin Williams and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be amazing. And yet, it’s not very good at all.
| "Rational thinking creatures still have desires."
There are very few laughs to be found in the script, from Jones and Small Soldiers scribe Gavin Scott. Despite the comic talent of all involved, most of the attempted stabs at humour seem to be variants of the same premise that Neil’s wishes aren’t specific enough – essentially the plot of every episode of Fairly Odd Parents. There’s some initial amusement from these gags, but they quickly wear thin.
If the script is lazy, it doesn’t help that at least half of the cast is on autopilot. Pegg has proven woeful at choosing starring vehicles for himself and suffers here despite an affable performance. Even the Pythons themselves, as delightfully grungy CGI aliens, are essentially reduced to one joke. Kate Beckinsale is given very little to do as the nominal female lead, mostly spending time with Rob Riggle’s deeply bizarre character who appears to have waltzed into Absolutely Anything from a different, considerably darker film.
Tonal difficulties are a problem for Absolutely Anything across the board, with the film never quite sure to whom it is supposed to appeal. The premise screams family friendly, as does the reliance on lavatorial gags involving dancing dog turds. However, there are flashes of adult themes throughout and one scene unleashes a flurry of F-bombs without warning. I can tell you from my screening that several moments like that left a couple of parents wishing they’d booked for Inside Out instead.
| "She’s not a bitch. She’s a lovely human female."
It’s almost impressive quite how thoroughly Absolutely Anything squanders its inherent goodwill. There quite simply aren’t enough laughs to justify a film that doesn’t seem to know whether it’s courting the summer kiddie crowd or swearing them out of the cinema. By the time the credits offer us a tender tribute to Robin Williams, it leaves the whole thing feeling like a real waste of talent.
Pop or Poop?
Shockingly, given the talent involved, Absolutely Anything is a sorry example of absurdist British comedy that never meets its considerable potential.
It’s ironic that a film with such a powerful protagonist couldn’t just wave its hand and wish to be funnier.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.