‘The dog’s not so bad. It’s the people I can’t stand.’ This observation, made by John Cleese as an evil animated alien called Sharon midway through fellow Python Terry Jones’s ropey new comedy, also acts as a neat summation of the film itself. The pooch – voiced in one of his final roles by the late Robin Williams – is sort of fun. But the humans, chiefly a haggard-looking Simon Pegg as self-absorbed teacher Neil, are a tiresome bunch.
The main selling point here is the Monty Python gang, reunited in voice, if not in physical form, as a gang of marauding extra-terrestrials who randomly select the aforementioned Neil as the subject for an intergalactic experiment. He’s gifted with infinite, Godlike powers – if he uses them for good, the human race gets to survive. If not, it’s goodnight Vienna (and everywhere else on the planet).
The story’s been done before, in less secular form as ‘Bruce Almighty’ (it also weirdly echoes another Pegg effort, ‘The World’s End’). But can ‘Absolutely Anything’ justify it’s own existence? Kind of. In the plus column there’s a small handful of decent gags, a clutch of welcome cameos (Eddie Izzard, notably) and at 85 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome. There’s also a fairly solid moral about free will and personal desire.
But nothing else here really clicks. In time-honoured Python fashion, Kate Beckinsale’s love interest Cath is never really developed – which is perhaps a blessing, because her cut-glass-posh performance is almost as grating as Pegg’s. The Python team sound half asleep, their characters never more than a plot device. And the cheeky-chirpy keyboard score sounds like it’s wandered in from a particularly low-rent as ’90s sitcom, along with most of the jokes. Still, it could’ve been worse. Remember ‘Yellowbeard’?