Simon Pegg's appearance in Edgar Wright comedies creates an expectation when you see his
face. The jokes around him are going to go fast and fine-tuned and have a personality. So when
he shows up in films like Absolutely Anything, the lowbrow thoughtlessness of the picture is still
shocking. Pegg plays a character who aliens test, earth's fate hanging in the balance, by giving
him the power to make his any wish come true. Unlike fictional tales that explore the moral
implications of this, like Jessica Jones or Preacher, Anything opts in a very 1980's way to make its
main characters totally defined by their sexual or romantic longing. Pegg wants his neighbor Kate
Beckinsale, whose life is in turn consists of vague romantic dreams and two suitors, a sexual
harassing boss and stalker. The stalker is played by Rob Riggle, who is a U.S. military man out of
place among Anything's British locale and characters. He makes a few critical references to
Guantanamo and warrantless wiretapping, which I encourage more comedies to do, but his shtick
is horribly off. It's broader than everyone else's and doesn't fit at all. It allowed me to relax and take
the movie as the pointless exercise it is.
Absolutely Anything is written and directed by Monty Python alum Terry Jones and features a
vocal performance by him and the other living members of the troupe as the aliens, as well as
Robin Williams, playing the voice of Pegg's dog once he gives it the ability to talk. The Hitchhiker's
Guide-esque aliens (laughing as they collect various Pioneer probe-like greetings from civilizations
as prelude to wiping them out) are the closest Anything gets to the philosophical wisecracking that
is Jones' wheelhouse, as the director of Life of Brian, Holy Grail and Erik the Viking. He has been
apparently working on this script for decades (with Gavin Scott), and was inspired by a H.G. Wells
story. It comes off as it was written in a week and done for money. I liked the more longform jokes,
like when Pegg tells a friend's crush to "worship" him, and she starts a religion, makes disciples
and desires his martyrdom.
Most of the jokes are based on the misinterpretation of his wishes. Bringing people he
accidentally killed back to life raises the world's dead, asking for a perfect body gives him a
woman's body, etc. He turns his friend into a sausage and then a shop he enters thinks he's
shoplifting the sausage. A lot of these jokes don't have the speed they need to sell their silliness.
Riggle's stalker becomes increasingly violent while making goofy faces. At one point after he's just
pointed a gun at Pegg, Beckinsale leaves the two of them wrestling even though the implication
would be she's abandoning one of them to his death. Her boss wants her to have sex with her for
promotion; she has one bad day and decides that's fine. Towards the end she suddenly realizes
that Pegg's mind control of other people inhibits free will and acts in a realistic matter briefly in
order for a standard romantic comedy third act separation of the central couple.
In real life people do things other than have romances and desire other people. The three act
comedies you've seen all your life accidentally imply that life without a mate has no meaning, and
that life with one quenches all pain. It makes the lead characters in them seem too simple and
self-involved. Pegg's character here is meant to be blinkered by venality but on the path to
empathy, eventually using his wishes to try to better the world. But his change rings false, the ritual
steps of a ritual script, and the movie's concerns move back to his all-consuming need to date his
Movie Review: Absolutely Anything
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Director: Terry Jones, Gavin Scott
Starring: Simon Pegg, Robin Williams, Kate Beckinsale, Terry Jones, John Cleese