Absolutely Anything (2015)
“Neil Clarke’s life just got extraordinary.”
Absolutely Anything (2015)
Director: Terry Jones
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhaskar
Synopsis: A group of eccentric aliens confer a human being with the power to do absolutely anything, as an experiment.
The plot device of an ordinary person suddenly becoming bestowed with extra-ordinary powers is one that is usually accompanied by the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for,’ and Absolutely Anything is no different from its predecessors in that respect. In fact, Absolutely Anything is no different from movies tackling the same subject in any respect, so closely does it adhere to an established formula that was in use as far back as the 1930s. It’s written by former Python Terry Jones (who also directed) and Gavin Scott, who have a combined age of 137, and their ages are reflected in the way that Absolutely Anything seems strangely detached from the modern world. It almost feels as if they stumbled across a screenplay that was rejected by the Python team in 1983 and decided to resurrect it.
The recipient of the power to do anything is Neil Clarke, played with winsome amiability by Simon Pegg (The World’s End, Man Up), who is fast making a career out of playing essentially the same character in any movie in which he has the lead role. Clarke’s a nice but ineffectual guy who never fully appreciates his potential, an under-achieving secondary school teacher with a crush on Catherine (Kate Beckinsale – Total Recall, Stonehearst Asylum), the woman in the flat downstairs, which he lacks the confidence to pursue. He’s an everyman, which is why he’s selected to receive the power to do anything by an inter-galactic council of aliens (voiced by Jones’s fellow former Pythons) so that they can determine whether Earth should be destroyed or spared now that its inhabitants have figured out how to send satellites and probes into space.
Once he realises he possesses this gift, Clarke wishes for the kind of things most men would wish for: a bigger dick, a great body, the ability to spy on that woman downstairs, and to make her fancy him – although to prevent him from coming across as too much of a creep, the movie has Clarke’s power temporarily fail when he makes that last wish so that Catherine climbs into his bed of her own free will. But he soon learns that his new-found power is fraught with pitfalls, when his wishes are interpreted a little too literally. Unfortunately, Jones and Scott apparently have so little trust in their audience’s ability to grasp this idea that they employ the increasingly irritating ploy of having Clarke explain exactly what has gone wrong with each wish before rectifying the error.
Most of the movie follows Clarke’s ham-fisted, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to create a better life for himself. Catherine has a past which includes an obsessed US military boyfriend, Grant (Rob Riggle – 21 Jump Street) who tries to hijack Clarke’s powers for his own gain, a development which results in the movie’s most dismally unfunny sequence in which all British men are given over-sized ears and webbed feet, and all policemen’s uniforms are turned pink. For some reason, the movie also includes a second unhealthy – and equally unfunny – obsession in which Clarke decrees that a female colleague who has sniffily rejected the advances of his best friend, Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar – London Boulevard), should now worship him.
The humour rarely rises above this sub-Pythonesque level, with probably the biggest laugh coming from the idea that, in 21st Century Britain, a policeman patrolling the streets would be on hand to immediately arrest the suspected perpetrator of a petty crime. And the film fails to follow its own internal logic, with Clarke never once thinking of returning everything to the way it was so that he can start again after matters grow increasingly out of his control. Pegg is appealing enough in the lead role, although his likeable loser routine is growing a little thin these days, while Beckinsale looks lovely but is given little to do other than react to the scenarios Clarke devises for her, and Riggle is simply irritating in a role that is written so broadly that, even for fantastical nonsense like Absolutely Anything, it feels completely out of place.
(Reviewed 18th December 2015)