When it was announced, Absolutely Anything was touted as a unique opportunity to see a proper reunion of the surviving Monty Python members – the old troupe, back on the big screen, for maybe the last time.
Terry Jones, director of The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and many more, was getting the gang back together. Could this be the movie Python fans have clamoured for?
Put bluntly: no. No, it could not. Despite Jones at the helm, and Cleese, Palin, Idle and Gilliam on board, Python’s irresistible mix of surrealism and silliness now seems like a very distant memory.
This film has a tone so broad you could see it from space. And for a film that is, in fact, partly set in space, it has a depressingly unambitious streak, of the kind you see in studio Britcoms chasing that lucrative US export. There’s none of the bold inventive sparkle or intellectual immaturity that was once a Python hallmark.
The Pythons themselves, meanwhile, are almost literally phoning it in – their roles equate to voicing some CGI aliens, probably dashed off in an afternoon. None of them seem especially enthused to be there. John Cleese just sounds a bit tired.
The focus instead falls on Simon Pegg’s secondary school teacher Neil, an unassuming nobody who suddenly finds himself gifted with unlimited powers by said aliens, while they ponder whether to destroy the Earth.
If you were thinking this high-concept pitch – Ordinary Joe becomes God – sounds rather a lot like Bruce Almighty, well, yes, you’re not far off. But unlike Jim Carrey’s brush with omnipotence, Neil is remarkably unimaginative in the use of his powers.
He gives himself a generously-endowed body, self-dressing clothes, and a talking dog; but he’s too witless to conjure up anything more dazzling than that. (A more accurate title might be Absolutely Anything That The Special Effects Budget Will Allow For.)
Still, at least the powers allow for some mildly entertaining diversions. It’s when Neil pursues the girl-next-door (Kate Beckinsale) that the film takes a sharp turn into Mediocreville.
Beckinsale’s absurdly glamorous Hollywood looks are wildly out of place in her drab office job; her gaudy-best-mate-tropes are found in only the bleakest romantic comedies, and her whole tawdry subplot offers literally nothing of value to the film at large.
A real disappointment, Absolutely Anything brims with talent and potential, but squanders it on a parade of safe, unfunny, paint-by-numbers clichés. Forgive the obvious wordplay… but truly, you’ll wish you were watching absolutely anything else.