Director – Terry Jones
Writer(s) – Terry Jones, Gavin Scott
Starring – Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Sanjheev Baskar, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Robin Williams
Absolutely Everything was a film that had absolutely everything it needed to be a sleeper hit. It had bankable names, such as Pegg, Beckinsale, Cleese and Gilliam, whilst also having the somewhat sad honour of being Robin Williams last on-screen role (A voice role, which, considering Aladdin‘s Genie is arguably his finest hour, is more than a suitable way to bow out). Despite all these obvious positives and selling-points, as well as an absolutely bizarre narrative on paper, it slipped through the cracks of public consciousness somewhat. So it was with a great curiosity that I set down to work out for myself what exactly had gone wrong. I got my answer quickly, as a film with seemingly endless scenarios somehow manages to become tediously boring.
Decades after being launched into space, a space probe containing information about the human race and a map to earth is found by four aliens that make up the ‘Galactic council’. They debate on whether to destroy the earth or make humanity a member of the council, instead relying on ‘Standard galactic protocol’ to decide. They will give one Human (Chosen at random) the ability to do absolutely anything they want. After ten days, if the powers have been used for good, the Aliens will spare earth and make humanity a member of the council. If the powers are used for evil, the earth will be destroyed for the moral improvement for the galaxy.
The human is chosen and revealed to be Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg a secondary school teacher who is both struggling with his jobsworth headmaster, Mr Robinson (Eddie Izzard) and with his lack of a girlfriend, although he has a crush on author agency employee, Catherine West (Kate Beckinsale), who lives underneath him in the apartment block.
All one has to do is read that synopsis to see that this was a movie that had literally limitless potential for narrative exploration. They could have done whatever they pleased, under the rules of the scenario they had set themselves. For some inexplicable reason, they decided to do practically nothing with it, and instead merely rehash Bruce Almighty with a lot less of the charm and originality that made it the sleeper hit this clearly aspired to be.
It follows every plot beat you expected as soon as it clicks with you where this film is heading, and the practically lifeless narrative limps along as predictably and safely as possible, without taking many risks or including any real surprises. Jealous ex-boyfriend for love interest? It’s there. Ethical issues of having endless power? Check. Moral dilemma when he’s unsure as to whether the love interest actually likes him, or whether he forced it himself via his powers? Also accounted for. It’s a crying shame, really, because you could get so much mileage out this idea, but Jones decides, for budget reasons, presumably, to do absolutely nothing out of the usual.
The Sci-Fi elements running concurrently also feel somewhat disjointed and out of place, as they merely seem to serve as avatars for us, the audience, discussing the ramifications of Clarke’s various actions. Again, it’s a hugely disappointing, as those elements were the most intriguing part of the entire set-up. Also, the voice acting talents are so tragically wasted it’s almost depressing. To get Cleese and Gilliam around a table seems like instant gold, and harder to get wrong than right for even the most mediocre writer. Sadly, it’s all very flat, and listless.
In fact, one could argue strongly that the screenplay is the worst part of this whole endeavour. It never fizzles, rather plods along, making obvious jokes that just don’t seem to work for whatever reason. Pegg, as a rule, can often make chicken salad out of chicken shit, and find a way to deliver even the worst screenplays in a humorous fashion. Here, he has almost nothing to work with, and his efforts fall sadly flat. Flat, actually, is the best description for this film. It’s not poor, it’s not terrible, it’s not offensively bad…it’s just flat.
Beckinsale does manage to sparkle somewhat, surprisingly, as she brings a mischievous twinkle that injects the movie with a slice of personality. Sadly, her dialogue isn’t much to work with, and her chemistry with Pegg is almost laughably bad. Rob Riggle also manages to actually be entertaining, as he puts in a deliciously hammy performance as the deluded Colonel, and Clarke’s rival for Catherine’s affections. Again though, the script lets him down a bit, as the character is tragically over-written.
The worst part, perhaps, is that there are moments and gags that feel like they should have worked, but for whatever reason don’t. The idea that he makes a woman ‘Worship’ his friend, and that in turn leads to her chasing him around and erecting a shrine, should have been good. It should have worked. It just doesn’t. Like a monkey with a calculator, the writer doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing with the few good ideas he gets. There are more moments like this, and hey, you might actually enjoy them. Sadly though, for this writer, it fell tragically short.
Also, the dog and his owner relationship dynamic is again played as simple as possible and takes the exact route you’d expect. The dog only wants biscuits and to shag, because he’s a dog, get it? Hilarious, right? Hell, maybe it is for you, I’m no connoisseur of comedy, but I am a connoisseur of cinematic storytelling, and I know lazy writing when I see it. The fact that this role is the last we’ll ever see, or hear, of the great Robin Williams, is almost infuriating. The worst part is Williams himself seems to know it, as his performance is the most lifeless you’re ever likely to hear him. I’m going to refrain from making an obvious joke here.
Luckily, the cinematography and soundtrack are unoffensive if also uninspiring. Nothing’s particularly bad, it’s all simply by-the-numbers. I wish I had more to say about this, so this paragraph wasn’t quite so pathetically empty, but alas, I do not.
Normally, when an actor passes away, I’d implore his/her fans to watch their final work, as a tribute to their careers. Here, I’d say if you enjoy the legendary career of Mr.Robin Williams, to simply check out Jumanji or Aladdin instead, and save yourself this pain. Absolutely Anything isn’t bad by any stretch, and the narrative is interesting enough at first. It just isn’t particularly great, either, and commits the biggest cinematic sin of them all; that being the sin of being terribly dull. Sadly, other than the alien element, you can get the same basic premise delivered better with Bruce Almighty, which itself was hardly spectacular. Like taking Ketamine, it’s a mindless way to kill ninety minutes, but don’t expect to remember much about it afterwards.
Final Rating – 3.