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Absolutely Anything DVD Review

Absolutely Anything (2017) movie poster Absolutely Anything

US Theatrical Release: May 12, 2017 (UK Release: August 14, 2015) / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Terry Jones / Writers: Terry Jones, Gavin Scott

Cast: Simon Pegg (Neil Clarke), Kate Beckinsale (Catherine West), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Ray), Rob Riggle (Colonel Grant Kotchev), Robert Bathurst (James Cleverill), Eddie Izzard (Headmaster Mr. Robinson), Joanna Lumley (Fenella), Marianne Oldham (Rosie), Emma Pierson (Miss Pringle), Meera Syal (Fiona Blackwell), Mojo the Dog (Dennis) / Voice Cast: Robin Williams (Dennis the Dog), John Cleese (Chief Alien), Terry Gilliam (Nasty Alien), Eric Idle (Salubrious Gat), Terry Jones (Scientist Alien), Michael Palin (Kindly Alien)

Buy Absolutely Anything from Amazon.com: DVD + Digital HD Instant Video

Simon Pegg's standing as a leading man of film has not been on the steadiest of ground outside of his acclaimed collaborations in the Cornetto trilogy of genre comedies directed and co-written by Edgar Wright.
Pegg's other vehicles, from 2008's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People to 2014's Hector and the Search for Happiness, have struggled to find audiences, making his surest path to wide theatrical release being a supporting player in the ensembles of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible movies. That almost kind of explains the mystery of Absolutely Anything, a comedy that supposedly made it to American theaters this past May, two years after opening in the UK and other parts of Europe and Asia.

Absolutely Anything does not feel like a 2017 film, or a 2015 film for that matter. For one thing, it features a character voiced by Robin Williams, who passed away in the summer of 2014, which makes this by far his final acting credit to be released. But nothing about the movie makes sense at this time. A soft R-rated comedy directed and co-written by Monty Python's Terry Jones and featuring voice acting from his fellow troupe members, this sci-fi human satire is not of obvious appeal to people of any age in any part of the world. That kind of explains why it unceremoniously came to DVD last week, a mere six and a half weeks after its limited theatrical release.

Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) has got the power to do anything with a wave of the hand in "Absolutely Anything."

Pegg plays Neil Clarke, a Brit who dreams of becoming a famous novelist, but for now is a schoolteacher who is not given respect or notice. Meanwhile, an intergalactic council of superior beings is contemplating the destruction of Earth. Before they can do that, they agree to give the seemingly primitive inhabitants of this planet a chance to prove they are superior beings. The test sees endless powers gifted upon a random inhabitant, who unknowingly will decide the fate of his planet. As you've already figured out, Neil Clarke is the randomly chosen subject.

Unlimited powers in the hands of an ordinary guy sounds a bit like Bruce Almighty and Absolutely Anything plays out a lot like it. With a wave of the hand and the voicing of a desire, Neil is able to magically command dog turds into the toilet and whiskey back into the bottle. Then he's able to give himself a better body and to make him more attractive to his good-looking neighbor Catherine (Kate Beckinsale). Between an American military love interest who can't take a hint (Rob Riggle) and a thankless job for a book-trashing television series, Catherine isn't having the best of luck.

Neil uses his powers to serve himself, getting the headmaster at his school (Eddie Izzard) to suddenly be nice to him and then giving his dog Dennis the gift of speech and rational thought (supplied by Robin Williams). Wishing for other things like world peace, an end to hunger, and a reversal of global warming backfires, creating new problems for the planet to tackle. That's about as clever as things get in the script that's credited uncollaboratively to Jones and lapsed veteran British scribe Gavin Scott (Small Soldiers, The Borrowers).

Members of Monty Python voice the animated aliens who form the Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings who place the fate of the Earth in the unknowing hands of randomly-selected Neil Clarke.

A British version of Bruce Almighty with Simon Pegg in lead doesn't sound like the worst thing ever, but Absolutely Anything falls short even of those modest expectations. It's just a baffling parade of lame gags and obligatory beats, like a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that is totally devoid of wit. There's a bit of commentary on the nature of humanity,
but it's banal stuff and not even a romance between the ordinarily appealing Pegg and Beckinsale can generate any joy. I wanted to appreciate Dennis the dog, just because it's some of the final work ever done by the wonderful Williams, recording session clips of whom play during the end credits. But it's no easier to see the good in this than say, A Merry Friggin' Christmas.

Anyone else could have voiced Dennis or, for that matter, played Neil or Catherine without making the film any less entertaining than it is, which proves that the cast's talents are not put to great use here. I've never been able to get into Monty Python, but I don't think fondness for that beloved troupe would enhance the experience, even with Jones, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin voicing the snobby aliens who are testing Neil.

Absolutely Anything, which has an original end credits title song performed by Kylie Minogue, apparently grossed over $2 million in its native UK, where it was released in August 2015. It made another $1.2 million in China and more than half a million in both Italy and Russia. No box office record was established in North America, but I would doubt it sold more than hundreds of tickets here with little publicity beyond brief, negative reviews.

The one good thing you can say about Absolutely Anything is that it is brisk, running just 85 minutes including credits.

Absolutely Anything DVD + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $22.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Absolutely Anything's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD transfer is fine for standard definition. Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack will only garner notice if it's the first time you've watched a DVD with surround sound. It gets the job done in an unremarkable fashion.

Kate Beckinsale claims the Set Up menu of the lightweight Absolutely Anything DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only on-disc bonus feature here is a 2-minute trailer for the film.
A lot of new movies don't have their trailers join them on disc, so that's appreciated at least.

The other inclusion is a code for a Digital HD, which would enable you to watch this film on the go or in a resolution higher than what DVD affords it.

The static main menu, a variation on the cover art, is joined by score, while submenus are not.

The digital copy insert is all that joins the full-color disc inside the unslipcovered, eco-friendly keepcase.

Neil (Simon Pegg) tries to silence Dennis the Dog (voiced by Robin Williams) when a neighbor hears him talking.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The obscurity of Absolutely Anything rightfully tips you not to expect much from this long-shelved comedy, but you'll probably still be surprised that the people behind some of most esteemed comedy films of all time can do nothing to squeeze any laughs out of this dull, uninspired farce. Fox's basic DVD does nothing to enhance the movie, although the inclusion of Digital HD is some consolation for the lack of a Blu-ray edition.

Buy Absolutely Anything from Amazon.com: DVD + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The Lego Batman Movie Beauty and the Beast The Sense of an Ending Logan Fist Fight
Simon Pegg: Run Fatboy Run The World's End Hot Fuzz | Kate Beckinsale: Love & Friendship Stonehearst Asylum Vacancy Everybody's Fine
Robin Williams: Mrs. Doubtfire Aladdin A Merry Friggin' Christmas Old Dogs Good Morning, Vietnam
Directed by Terry Jones: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride | Joanna Lumley: James and the Giant Peach Me Before You The Wolf of Wall Street
Men in Black The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Evan Almighty Galaxy Quest

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Reviewed July 2, 2017.



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