Terry Jones’ Absolutely Anything explores what might happen if an ordinary guy was granted the power to do absolutely anything.
This is a pretty familiar premise in fiction as the concept of wish fulfillment has limitless possibilities for storytelling. We would all like to be lifted from our humble lives and be granted the power to do whatever we want and face no consequences for it.
Having your entire film be based on an idea that has infinite potential makes it all the more baffling when it is explored so unambitiously. Simon Pegg plays a dull teacher pretending that he’s a novelist named Neil Clarke. It’s actually more or less the same setup as in Limitless except Bradley Cooper’s character in that film actually had some charisma to begin with so it was really easy to root for him to succeed in some way. This definitely isn’t the case for Neil Clarke who comes across as a sniveling loser with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. Not the best lead character for a film like this.
The flimsy reasoning for him to have these powers is that powerful aliens have intercepted a probe launched by humanity some years ago and decided to test their worth according to their bizarre criteria. They choose one random human being to be granted the power to do absolutely anything and see if he uses it for good or for evil. If he uses it for what they define to be good then the planet doesn’t get blown to bits. It’s really silly but a film with this premise can definitely milk the silliness for all its worth in the right hands.
Terry Jones should have been the right hands given his directorial contribution to the Monty Python series. The aliens are voiced by Monty Python alum John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin as well so it’s baffling that this really doesn’t manage to be funny through most of the mercifully short running time.
I got the impression that Pegg wasn’t really trying here. I’m tough to please when it comes to comedy but I often find myself entertained by things that Simon Pegg is involved in. I tend to enjoy the films he has had a more active role in creating such as Paul or the Cornetto trilogy. Basically whenever he works with Edgar Wright he seems to be at his best. Films that he simply stars in tend to be a lot weaker for some reason and this one is definitely no exception. He doesn’t lend any personality or wit to Neil that makes him worth watching. He simply takes up space on screen and uses his powers until the film ends.
The other members of the cast fare little better. Kate Beckinsale’s Catherine is an insultingly bland eye candy love interest with almost no agency within the plot. Of course the “twist” is that she liked him long before he got his powers. She has zero chemistry with Pegg and no sense of comedic timing. I imagine this is more due to the terrible script rather than her ability.
Her psycho ex boyfriend Grant (Rob Riggle) is more irritating than even the script wants to be and any scene featuring him just drags endlessly. Comedy mainstays like Joanna Lumley and Eddie Izzard are criminally underused with not a single funny line coming out of any of their mouths. Sanjeev Bhaskar’s Ray is so forgettable that his best scene was when he was transformed into an inanimate object.
Some laughs did come from Robin Williams’ vocal performance as Neil’s dog Dennis. The writing was as terrible as it was everywhere else but this comedy legend can spin the worst dialogue into comedy gold. It makes me sad that this serves as his last film. To have this as his swansong is a complete insult to his memory.
I mentioned earlier that the exploration of the premise lacked ambition. It could be that Neil is supposed to be the dullest wannabe author on the planet but he uses his boundless power to do things like alter the weather, get dressed, make his dog talk, clean up his dog’s mess. Some semi-inventive usage appears when he becomes the president of the United States for a few seconds and improve his physical appearance marginally. There are many scenes where the question “why doesn’t he just use his powers to…?” comes up in a way that is distracting. I’m guessing that most of this was budget limited but surely something a bit more creative could be done than what we saw here. The narrative moves clumsily through increasing boring uses of his power. I’d say the best example of this concept was used in Bruce Almighty – at least that film had some fun with the concept.
Don’t check this film out. It completely ruins a solid concept and turns it into a procession of criminally unfunny jokes. A solid turn from the legendary Robin Williams isn’t enough to make this in any way watchable. Rent Bruce Almighty instead and save some cash.
A criminally unfunny attempt to play with the concept of having limitless power and the potential that brings to the life of an ordinary man.
Any use of this power is really unambitious creating some of the most boring examples of wish fulfillment ever put to film. I really did expect more from such a large amount of Monty Python more but everything falls so far short of the mark here.
The cast are either underused or sleepwalk through the role. Simon Pegg brings no likeable traits to his character and the love story with Kate Beckinsale’s character is so insultingly typical that it’s hardly worth talking about. Comedy mainstays like Eddie Izzard and Joanna Lumley barely appear and fail to register when they do.
Robin Williams is the definite highlight of the film voicing the dog Dennis. He manages to elevate the terrible material and bring out some genuine laughs. Such was his talent and I’d expect nothing less. Having this as his final film is an insult to his memory though.
Definitely not one to recommend here. Rent Bruce Almighty to see something more creative and save your money.