If you go to see Absolutely Anything expecting anything other than a mediocre comedy then you either haven’t seen the trailer or are a misguided individual.
From start to end this film is verging on being blithe and that’s because of two key issues but before I go into them I better give a rundown of the plot.
Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) is a bit of a failure. As a teacher his class isn’t particularly respectful to him, nor are they going to be the next great thinkers. On top of this the headmaster doesn’t particularly like him. Outside of work he lives alone, is bad with women; mainly because he is as smooth as coarse pepper. He does have one thing no-one else has though: the ability to do absolutely anything. This was granted to him by aliens to see if he would do good or evil. If he does good then humans will be invited into an inner circle of intergalactic super beings, if not the earth will be destroyed.
So, back to the first of these issues. The film fails make use of a really great cast. It’s a wasted opportunity when you have British comedy royalty such as Eddie Izzard, who play’s the school headmaster, and the cast of Monty Python who voice the aliens reduced to mere cameos. Realistically, Izzard is only there for Neil to be able to prove to his friend Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar) that he can anything by making the headmaster suddenly be kind towards him.
Furthermore the aliens simply serve as a basic plot device. We see them at the start of the film to set up the premise, near the end to judge and jury and that’s almost about it. Neil is unaware of their presence so they are almost irrelevant to the story. There was one redeeming cast member though and that was Robin Williams voicing Neil’s dog Dennis.
Dennis is by far the best thing in the film. Neil says “Dennis be able to speak”, waves his hand and ta-da: “Biscuits!”, “Biscuits!”, “Please please please, biscuits!”. It’s an amusing opener especially when it’s built up by Neil previously talking to him (and seemingly understanding him) like a person and yet all he get’s back is “Biscuits”. Even after Neil say’s “Dennis become a rational thinking creature” he simply rationalises why he want’s biscuits.
Dennis has the right balance of being able to talk English but also still holding his err… what’s the dog equivalent of humanity? Canininity!? Yeah, that’ll do. Anyway, it provides a stable source of entertainment which is admittedly quite limited in Absolutely Anything.
The biggest problem to this film, and the second reason why I found it bordering on blithe, is absolutely everything that Neil wishes into existence. The comedy behind the idea of being able to do anything is not slapstick by Neil is wishing for ridiculous things, instead the comedy comes from the fact that what Neil asks for is given in a literal sense which means he never really gets what he actually wants.
This could be really amusing if the effects of his commands were carried forwards through the film or if they accumulated into an ever more unmanageable situation. But no, a flippant wave of the hand and it’s all undone so there is never any consequence to Neil’s actions. What you are left with is a shopping list of wishes; “Let everyone be alive, give me a great body, let the headmaster like me”. Film it, tick the box, next wish, film it. Nothing he ever wishes for has any sense of permanence and therefore the only thing you can do is to ignore them like last year’s Christmas presents from grandma.
Because the execution of Neil’s wishes is half-arsed you’d think that this calorie free, ‘lite’ comedy might be just another “fun” family film. That’s probably what it should have been. However, there are a couple of NSFW scenes like when Neil’s love interest Catherine (Kate Beckinsale) candidly talks to her friend over a few too many wines; “What you think I should fuck him?”, “yeaahhh…. just fuck him”.
The chuckles from the few parents who did bring their young kids to watch this rapidly turned to awkward gasps. I probably shouldn’t admit that I found this funnier than most of the film but hey, I’m an asshole sometimes!
The idea that you can do anything at all with the wave of a hand, yet for it to never work as you want it to holds a lot of promise. You’d think that adding in a mix of comedy greatness would be a home run but the film is like the OJ Simpson trial: it lacks conviction.
Given that all of it’s themes, characters and plot developments are half baked I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to watch this film. In other words if I had to compare to absolutely anything at all it would be just any average TV movie.
- Dennis the biscuit dog
- Promising concept
- Wasted Cast
- Wasted concept
- Drops the F bomb