'Absolutely Anything' was Absolutely Lacking


What would you do if you had the ability to make absolutely anything happen? Would you ask for a million dollars or the ability to fly? Or would you solve poverty, or make lying impossible? It’s a question that can either have a very shallow answer or a deeply insightful one. Unfortunately, ‘Absolutely Anything’, while entertaining, never digs deep enough in the thesis it created for itself.

The Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings, a transcendent alien society, is deciding whether or not to destroy planet Earth. To help them make their decision, they agreed to give a random human the ability to do absolutely anything with a wave of the hand. If the human can prove that Earthlings are a worthy race and uses the godlike powers for good, then the planet will be spared.

That human, was the very mediocre, Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) – 40 something unsatisfied public school teacher, lives alone with his dog, pines for a gorgeous neighbor from a distance, and frustratingly never gets anywhere with a book he committed to write. 

And what Neil subsequently does with those powers seem to reflect this movies general appeal - it stayed small and shortsighted. He orders poop to clean itself up, or gives himself a rocking body, but really, with everything film-makers can do nowadays with CG and practical effects, these all seem a bit weak/shallow. The biggest set piece the movie gave us, and the gag that produced the largest laugh I heard from the movie goers, was the one that involved the undead. The movie could have been more ambitious from a visual and conceptual stand point.

It’s not only the wish department that lacked ambition but also in the story’s underlining themes. Early on I felt this movie had huge potential to be philosophically substantial. It seemed to be headed for deeper/more profound territories for a while – when Neil attempts to cure the world’s problems (war, hunger, poverty), or when he thought he forced his neighbor to be attracted to him when he really didn’t (ala Hitch) – but at the end of the day, these moments didn’t play a big part in the overall narrative and the personal development of the protagonist. It felt like the story merely got sidetracked. Any time the script feels like it’s about to get more introspective, it lacks to conviction to push its own beliefs or principles.

The exact same look the audience had.

There’s predictability to how the plot progresses and dissatisfaction to how it concludes. The jealous ex finding out how his powers work were one of the more obvious and stupid developments. Catherine ending up with Neil also felt like it was a mandatory turn of the wheel (and an undeserved one at that!) But what I had the most problem with was how Neil’s central conflict with his powers is dealt with. 

(SPOILER ALERT) Neil himself doesn’t fix his problems; it was Dennis, his dog, who ultimately does the decisive heroic act. So in the end, Neil remains the same mediocre man-child that he was at the start of the movie. No grand revelations, no insightful wisdom into the purpose of man or the true value of love, nothing. It robbed Neil of his moment and the opportunity to become more appealing and dynamic a character and made for a very underwhelming finish to a story so ripe with potential.

Give a completely different meaning to 'man's best friend'.

At the very least, the recurring be careful what you wish for gags made for some huge laughs from the audience. Neil’s powers are apparently very pedantic about wish granting. But really a lot of it was thanks to the leading man.

It was with Simon Pegg’s zany and loveable charm that these tropes and repetitive jokes are elevated to a more enjoyable level. He’s so often typecast as the everyman or the loser with heart but it’s with good reason. As was also the case in Absolutely Anything, he also adds sincerity and modesty to any story he’s in on top of his impeccable comedic sense.


Of course I have to mention the late, great, Robin Williams. His voice work on Dennis the Dog wasn’t anything spectacular, especially compared to everything else he’s worked on, but it was still fun hearing his trademark voice and feeling his personality on a character again. And this being one of the final times we’ll ever see him on screen made watching the film ever so slightly more stirring (especially when they added that tribute footage during the credits! Stop tugging on my heart strings!)

Still the best.

Not much can be said about the leading lady though. This is Kate Beckinsale's second time to opposite a character who has godlike powers, but she had less to do with the role here than in 'Click'.

Absolutely Anything has a very similar set up to Bruce Almighty – a regular Joe is given the powers of a god. It’s very difficult not to compare. With the later you somewhat get the gravitas of having such power, but this film did no such attempt at being more reflective. Simon Pegg’s charm and the film’s slapstick humor could not salvage this movie completely but it was enough to make it watchable. Absolutely Anything could have challenged itself by tackling ideas on supreme power, human nature, true love, or any other worthwhile existential food for thought. But ironically, the movie that could have been absolutely amazing, instead settles for being absolutely lacking


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