Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tuesday's Reviews - Absolutely Anything (2015)

Simon Pegg has gotten a fair amount of hate on this blog over the years which is stupid considering how much I loved him back in the day. Spaced is and will always be one of my favourite shows growing up. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are still some of my most loved films. I have a lot of respect for the guy but he keeps making really shitty movies. It makes it hard to follow someone blindly through their career when it's full of so many duds. It all started with The Big Nothing which a friend and I saw after months of excitement. Upon leaving we decided it contained only three real gags and, after the credits rolled, we could only remember one of them. To be fair that one was pretty fucking funny. Killing a diabetic with a giant lollipop? Amazing. Still, it was enough for me to be wary. So now I see Simon Pegg's name on a cast list I tend to not have the immediate rush of excitement that I once had. The reason why it took me so long to finally watch this piece of shit.

On paper, Absolutely Anything should be a ready made classic. It was written by Monty Python's Terry Jones and stars some of Britain's biggest comedy stars. How could that fail I hear you cry? By being an even shitter Bruce Almighty without Morgan Freeman but with aliens and a talking dog. It's an unimaginative and kind of nostalgic film that offers very little in the way of comedy. So, really I don't want to spend much time on it here. Absolutely Anything focuses on teacher, Neil (Simon Pegg), and the weird twist of fate that gives him absolute power over everything. When a ship of aliens take it upon themselves to test the worthiness of humanity they randomly imbue one human with the ability to make anything happen. If the individual proves themselves to be worthwhile the planet will be saved. Of course, Neil's first thoughts when he discovers his new powers is to improve his professional life and make the beautiful girl next door (Kate Beckinsale) fall in love with him. Humanity is clearly doomed.

It's not that Absolutely Anything doesn't offer anything funny because there are moments that will make you giggle. It's that it just doesn't push any boundaries. Terry Jones was supposedly working on the script for 20 years but there is no real evidence of this. It feels very old-fashioned in terms of its humour and the amazing cast is never given any real freedom to use their skills. The narrative never goes further than the basic level and there are several plot strands that are not explored as much as they deserve. Like the problem of literal interpretations of wishes that crops up whenever Jones needs an easy laugh. During the early stages of discovering his powers, Neil asks that his friend's (Sanjeev Bhaskar) crush "worship" him leading to the woman forming a religion around him. It's an interesting idea that is not given as much time as it should have. Instead we have to watch the hapless Neil attempt to make himself someone the lovely Kate Beckinsale could fall in love with. It's all just very run-of-the-mill and won't wow audiences with any Monty Python style hilarity and originality.

Despite having a slight Python reunion when the comics give their voices to the alien council judging the inhabitants of planet Earth. The group have some of the wackiest moments in the film and there is some joy to be had from their banter. However, it's all very hemmed in. There is very little freedom within the film for any real comedy to come out. Absolutely Anything was billed as Robin William's final film and, quite frankly, it's a shame it was this one. William's plays the voice of Neil's dog after he uses his powers to allow him logic and speech. We know from Aladdin that William's can excel at voicework but his role here is just blah. As though he wasn't given the chance to explore the character as much as he should have. He may be one of the best things about the film but that really isn't saying much.

Considering my wavering feelings about Simon Pegg and his dodgy choice Absolutely Anything was never going to change my mind. This film rests upon Pegg's performance and, unfortunately for me, he wasn't up to the job. His quaint charm wasn't enough to distract from the lacklustre premise and lack of jokes. No amount of quirky Simon Pegg bumbling could make this film seem exciting. It was a fucking huge ask though so I won't hold it against him.

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