Anything goes in Monty Python Jones' latest
ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING (NC16)
Sci-fi comedy/86 minutes/Opens today
A band of "superior beings" come across one of the tablets Nasa sent into space and decide to test if humans are worthy to join their Intergalactic Council Of Superior Beings. They randomly pick an earthling (Simon Pegg) and give him the power to do absolutely anything, to see if it will be put to good or evil use. Do good and humans are in the group; do evil and earth will be destroyed.
ALREADY receiving some of the worst reviews of the year, Absolutely Anything is in grave danger of being seriously misunderstood, thanks to some critics' sense of nostalgia and its tendency to filter everything through rose-tinted lenses.
The film is Monty Python legend Terry Jones' return to moviemaking, 26 years after Erik The Viking and 40 years after his all-time classic debut Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
With the Monty Python films and TV show instantly associated with British wit, and therefore class and cleverness (at least as opposed to all those "vulgar" American comedies), it's easy to overlook the fact that most of their jokes are actually quite silly, nonsensical and, very often, non sequiturs.
In short, there's nothing subtle about them, which is quite the opposite of what most people seem to remember, though the Python gang's jokes are beloved to this day.
When news arrived that Jones would be directing this movie, and it would feature the (surviving) Python gang together for the first time since 1983's Monty Python And The Meaning Of Life, expectations went unrealistically high. And this led to the crushing disappointment felt by the ones trashing the movie with some truly bad reviews.
But, having always thought that the Monty Python brand of comedy is hilariously silly, I had no problems whatsoever getting into the similarly silly but different rhythms of this movie, which is more or less Jones' attempt to adapt his comedy style to a more commercially viable formula.
The "superior beings" in the film are basically CG aliens voiced by the old Python gang of John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin. The man-child they pick for their test of earth's worthiness is Neil (Pegg, last seen in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation), an unpublished author reduced to teaching English at a public school.
Presumably for commercial purposes, there's also a love interest in the form of his neighbour Catherine (Kate Beckinsale), which means that despite the promise of the premise, the movie will follow the usual romcom formula. In short, the story and plot here are worthless.
However, a plot doth not a movie make, depending on the film you're making. If a plot is really that important, then surely Mad Max: Fury Road deserves a mauling for its slender one, which was just an excuse to connect one stunning action set piece to another.
While Absolutely Anything is not the Fury Road of comedies, it is undeniably chock full of laugh-out-loud silly jokes, mostly stemming from Neil's powers making very literal interpretations of his wishes.
The whole high-concept premise here seems to be just an excuse for Jones and co-writer Gavin Scott to pepper the film with unrelated jokes that get to be on screen just because Neil has wished for them.
I stopped caring for the plot anyway as soon as I saw a pair of dog turds get up, walk to the toilet and jump in the bowl after Neil wished that his dog's mess would clean itself up. It had the whole cinema in stitches.
So forget high-minded ambition from this comedy - I suspect there never was any. Jones, Scott, Pegg and everyone else just want you to sit back, relax and get tickled silly, and they'll do absolutely anything for a laugh.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK