One of the two stars I gave this film is to honor the combined team of Terry Jones, the director and co-writer (and former member of Monty Python), and Simon Pegg, the star who is never out of a single frame. Actually, make that 1.5 stars for these two gents.
“Absolutely Anything” is a train wreck of a movie, made even sadder by the fact that the late Robin Williams does a voice-over for a dog and says some lines that can induce the same symptoms as the Zika virus. Sadder still, the dog is probably the most watchable character in a film that I only managed to sit through because a good friend said that Simon Pegg is the real reason why people watched the last three “Mission Impossible” films and a favorite uncle loves Monty Python. Sometimes, the wish to be honorable is the only thing that keeps you going.
According to unconfirmed online rumors, the plot of “Absolutely Anything” was floated by the Monty Python team in the early 1980s and shelved for decades until it was taken up by Jones who then invited screenwriter Gavin Scott to come onboard. If there was one word that would account for why this movie is what it is, it would probably be: “old.” If you want two, then “old men.”
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Jones and Scott never bothered to wipe the dust off their aged idea, or perhaps get a reality check from someone under 45 years of age. And it doesn’t help that Jones just come out of a 19-year directing hiatus. As a result we get some pretty awful gags, including dog poop that stands up, marches to the toilet bowl and plops itself in the water. And another poop that … you know what, let’s just forget it.
Pegg is Neil Clarke, a nice-guy-finishes-last type of man. Neil teaches at a secondary school in North London and his life is going nowhere. His boss is always yelling at him, his students make fun of him. He has a crush on his hot downstairs neighbor Catherine (Kate Beckinsale), but she turns away suitors left and right and doesn’t even seem to notice his existence.
Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away, a band of aliens (obviously on loan from the “Men in Black” series) sit around a table discussing their plans to rid the galaxy of Earth. These aliens (voiced by other former Monty Pythons Terry Gilliam and John Cleese) first decide to test the planet by randomly choosing a human individual, endowing him with superpowers and seeing if he would do anything worthwhile enough to restore faith in humanity. It probably would have been easier if the aliens had dipped into a Marvel Comic, since Spider-Man already figured out that with great power, comes great responsibility told us all about it. Nevertheless, unfortunately for Earth, the aliens hit upon Neil as the subject of their experiment and zap his hand with a mysterious laser beam.
Once Neil gets the hang of his new identity as a bloke who can do anything, his life turns around. He wishes for all the usual stuff: a ripped body, a huge apparatus, the ability to be invisible so he can spy on Catherine. On the less narcissistic side, he does his best friend Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar) a favor by making the woman who rejected him, fall slavishly in love and grovel at Ray’s feet.
Somewhere in the swampland of sex, fart and canine sex jokes, and other dismal moments, Neil does decide to use his powers to do some good for mankind. Unsurprisingly, none of them work out and we are treated to the excruciating experience of listening to Neil explain every superpower decision and why it failed. It would be wrong though, to pin the entire blame on Neil. What proves so grating is how the film assumes the audience is dumb if it fails to understand the humor. Monty Python always invited us to laugh along, but “Absolutely Anything” is just content to laugh at itself and leave everyone else stranded without a hope in the world.
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