Neil Clarke (Pegg) is a prototypical movie schlub, a sensitive but perpetually lazy man who claims to be toiling away at a novel but spends most of his time scraping by in his day job as a schoolteacher and pining for his gorgeous neighbor, Catherine West (Kate Beckinsale). Unbeknownst to Neil, a Galactic Council of alien creatures (voiced by John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and Jones, with intermittent transmissions from a non-council alien voiced by Eric Idle) have stumbled upon Earth and have begun their process of determining whether or not the planet will be selected to join the council. The process: test a randomly selected member of society by giving them ultimate power to see whether or not they use said power for good or evil. In the middle of a conversation with his one co-worker friend, Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar), Neil discovers he's been given that power, and immediately sets about screwing up Earth's chances of induction.
Absolutely Anything has a single, simple, fatal flaw: the screenplay, by Jones and Gavin Scott, makes the characters willfully ignorant for the sake of getting laughs instead of coming up with jokes that fit within the context of their own premise. Clearly, the aim is to build up a chaotic comic nightmare created by the aggregate effect of Neil's wishes, yet they attempt to do so without acknowledging the fact that there is no problem Neil couldn't solve just by waving his hand. In one scene, Neil gives his dog Dennis the power of speech (introducing Williams' voice performance), but in the next, it's hard not to throw the remote at the TV in frustration when Neil won't just wish it away or wish the dog were smarter when Dennis is ruining a dinner with Catherine. There's also Dorothy (Emma Pierson), a fellow teacher Ray has a crush on. To prove to Ray he has magical abilities, Neil wishes that Dorothy would "worship the ground Ray walks on." Naturally, this develops into Dorothy founding a cult that chases Ray around, and yet when Ray begs Neil for help, Neil acts as if there isn't time to undo the wish even though it would take him less time to fix it than it does for him to explain he can't be bothered. None of the wish-based problems stem from character or genuine storytelling -- they obnoxiously ignore the core conceit of the film in order to keep wackiness on the screen.
Such contrivances would be bad enough if they only affected the comedy, but they get in the way of the film's plot, as well. Catherine is being pursued by an ex-fling, Colonel Grant Kotchev (Rob Riggle), who will not take no for an answer in a manner that's more gross than funny. With Neil pursuing Catherine, Grant assumes that Neil is the man getting in the way of his own happiness, but instead of magically disposing of Grant right off the bat, Neil wastes time toying with him, only for Grant to kidnap him and try and use the powers for his own good. Once again -- this time in what is supposedly a climactic development -- the audience is left to question why Neil wouldn't easily be able to wish himself out of the scenario, especially when the core of it is such a basic hostage maneuver. It doesn't help that Riggle, a performer who can be very funny when used correctly, is allowed to dominate entire scenes with obnoxious swagger. There is also the very questionable notion of the film skirting around Neil's ability to use his powers to make Catherine love him. One might expect that -- even though such basic moral decency is not praise-worthy -- his unwillingness to do so would help him with the Galactic Council, but it never comes up, not to mention Neil has little to no qualms about using the powers selfishly in every other way.
Pegg is a talented performer, but never taps into much with the character of Neil, who does not learn or reveal any great insight through his journey -- one attempt to do decent things for the entire world has exaggerated bad results, so he simply gives up. Beckinsale sleepwalks through the film, showing occasional glimpses of charm but is saddled with a subplot about a soulless job that never goes anywhere. The one minor bright spot in the film is the hard-to-diminish joy of hearing the Pythons back together again, even if they undoubtedly recorded separately; it's fun to hear banter between their iconic voices even if their material is fairly predictable. It's just a shame all of these people came together to work on something so decidedly lackluster: you'll walk away from Absolutely Anything wishing they'd done absolutely anything else.
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