There was a time when Simon Pegg was working on innovative, ingenious comedic endeavours, ranging from the likes of Spaced, the sitcom which he co-penned, to the sketch show Big Train, all the way to the big screen with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. However of late we’ve seen something of a decline, as he takes the starring role in immensely underwhelming, and remarkably unfunny features, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Hector and the Search for Happiness and Man Up. Regrettably, his latest venture in Terry Jones’ Absolutely Anything continues on this unwanted trend.
Pegg plays Neil Clarke, a beleaguered secondary school teacher who spends large portions of his day moaning about life with his colleague Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar). Unbeknownst to him, however, he is soon granted a special, magical power – where he can make anything he wants happen. He’s been randomly selected by a malevolent group of aliens (voiced by the Monty Python collective), who are using the teacher as part of an experiment, as they attempt to judge the human race on his actions, before making a decision as to whether we’re worth keeping around, or terminating entirely. Needless to say, they aren’t particularly surprised to learn that Neil is using the powers as a means of self-serving, allowing his pet dog to talk (voiced by Robin Williams), and ensuring that his neighbour Catherine (Kate Beckinsale) falls hopelessly in love with him. If only it was as easy as that, eh?
Considering expectations have been suitably raised, given the Python troupe all star and Williams provides his indelible vocals to any project for the very last time – unfortunately the execution doesn’t match the promise, as Absolutely Anything is an excruciatingly predictable feature that simply isn’t funny enough. Though there are a handful of jokes which do work, on the most part they are hackneyed, obvious gags which do little to illuminate this entertaining, hypothetical narrative. Not to mention the aesthetically unappealing animated interludes, with an ugly use of effects to depict the extraterrestrial beings in charge of the human race’s fate.
Needless to say, when the closing credits appear and you begin to wonder what you would do if you could do absolutely anything, going back 90 minutes and choosing to see something else springs to mind. This is the first film that Jones’ has directed for almost two decades, with the last coming in 1996; and it’s a shame to say that you can most certainly tell.