1/2 a star (out of five)
Absolutely Anything is Terry Jones’ first feature screenplay (written here with 65 year old Gavin Scott) since Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in 1996 and before that, Erik The Viking in 1989. Those are also the last two features he’s directed. These yawning gaps present themselves in the form of horrendously stale jokes and awfully pedestrian – bordering on ameteurish – direction. I hate to say it of the man who gave us The Meaning of Life, Life of Brian, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but this is the worst film thus far of 2015, and so staggeringly terrible I can’t imagine it being beaten to the bottom.
Simon Pegg follows Man Up with yet another horrible choice, and he looks much, much more uncomfortable in this one. Everyone does, as the lines are essentially unspeakable. Sanjeev Bhaskar, as Pegg’s school-teaching colleague, has to get things rolling with lines like “If you could do absolutely anything, what would you do?” Kate Beckinsale, as the Girl Who Lives Downstairs, Is Impossibly Beautiful And Single, has to play a stereotype of a stereotype of a stereotype and do things like, when her pathological stalker pulls a gun, say, mildly worried, “You’re crazy!” Worst of all – way worst of all – Robb Riggle, as that stalker, seems to have been told to watch Kevin Kline’s performance in A Fish Called Wanda and copy it, right down to the facial expressions as he spies through a window.
Riggle’s character is clearly stolen from Kline’s – the American blowhard making fun of the English accent (hysterical) – which was co-written by John Cleese, Jones’ fellow Python. I don’t know if Cleese let this slide because he took pity on a chum who obviously had no new ideas, or as some nasty prank – “Wait ‘till Kevin sees this!” Regardless, Cleese and the other surviving Pythons also lend their voices to the least interesting, least funny “aliens” in movies. They give Pegg the power to do “absolutely anything”, so we then get a hundred variations of “Let me be on the bus!” followed by Pegg being on top of the bus! Hysterical!
Deeply depressing, too, is the use of a very lacklustre, almost maudlin voice performance by Robin Williams as Pegg’s dog. Nothing the dog says is funny – the jokes are as old as silent movies – and I am embarrassed that Williams, a master of the form, had to stand at a mic and read them. I’m sure he did it as a favour to Jones, because the film looks like it cost 60p.
Alarmingly, an obvious and easy scene to cut – that dog rescuing Pegg from a suicide attempt – was left in. It’s an awful scene, and distasteful, especially since it does nothing for the plot and is not funny (indeed, as I said, it’s awful). This is how Williams got repaid – with a bad suicide gag?
This film is appalling. What a shame, because everyone involved (perhaps with the exception of the very dubious Bhaskar) – are usually quite capable. Here they all look like hacks. But the script – the “jokes” – oy! Jokes about every woman in Australia being called “Sharon” (I’m sure this is a Python rip-off); jokes about dogs being obsessed with humping legs and eating biscuits; jokes about being gay; jokes about plumbers (humping legs and being gay). The film even looks like it was shot in 1983. Politically it’s so out of touch it’s out to lunch: when the aliens start flipping through all the people of the world to choose an experimental subject at random, they’re all white. And it has absolutely no interior logic, which is infuriating, even in a film with aliens. When Pegg’s character causes the death of 38 men, women and children at his school, he arrives home looking a little weary, like he walked a block. When he starts some world wars, they’re being reported on television – with footage – forty seconds later. When he… oh, forget it. Lord knows how and why anyone agreed to make this script into a projected image, but a projected image is all that it is. What a shame.