A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Absolutely Anything is a sci-fi comedy directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones in which a group of aliens endows a teacher named Neil (Simon Pegg) with the ability to make anything happen with the wave of a hand as a test to see whether humanity is worth saving. There's some crass/potty humor (such as a pile of dog poop "walking" and flushing itself down the toilet, or a man wishing for a great body and a big penis), as well as strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "bitch," etc.) and brief nudity (breasts). Neil almost always uses his powers to reverse the movie's violent moments -- including people dying -- and he eventually becomes less selfish. But while he learns lessons about responsibility, friendship, and love, there are mixed messages about commanding women to love/worship men and the idea of clearing up one problem can cause others. Also of note: The film marks comedian Robin WIlliams' final movie role.
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What's the story?
ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING is a sci-fi comedy that explores just how hard it would be to have the entire world at your fingertips. Terry Jones directs this tale in which a group of aliens (voiced by Jones and his fellow Monty Python alums John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Terry Gilliam) decides to test humanity to see whether Earth is worth saving or consuming. If a random human -- in this case, Neil (Simon Pegg), an aspiring writer and teacher in London -- can manage to do something exceptional with the power to do absolutely anything, Earth will be saved. But once he's endowed with so much power, Neil discovers just how precise his language must be in order for his wishes to come true as intended -- and, worse, how complicated things get when he's trying to make the world, or even just his love life, better. He makes a wish on behalf of his coworker, Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar), for his faculty crush to worship him; but instead of falling for Ray, she literally starts a religion around him. Then there's Neil's own love interest, Catherine (Kate Beckinsale), whom he'd rather not command to love him but does so all the same. Neil also wishes for his beloved dog, Dennis, to speak, so he does; and his voice turns out to be that of Robin WIlliams, making Absolutely Anything (which was shot in 2015) the late comedian's final film.
Is it any good?
Aside from a couple of silly sight gags and the novelty of hearing Williams' voice one last time, there's little to recommend this British comedy. The Monty Python alums are a legendary bunch, but Absolutely Anything just isn't funny fare, even with all of their talent. Pegg is, admittedly, well cast, but his Neil isn't particularly likable outside of his interactions with Dennis the dog. Hearing Williams' voice feels surreal at first, but as the dog develops "rational thought" (thanks to another of Neil's wishes), he goes from saying "biscuits!" to having a few funny lines (except for all the jokes about how Neil should shag the "b--ch").
The lackluster romance between Pegg and Beckinsale -- and the off-putting, predictable interference of Catherine's American suitor, Grant (Rob Riggle), make the third act nearly unwatchable. At one point, Grant forces a tied-up Neil to turn all Englishmen into big-eared, web-footed freaks. Given all the poop and body humor, the movie may appeal to those who enjoy broad, lowbrow humor with a hint of satire and political commentary. But this is the sort of movie it's difficult to seriously enjoy, because you can imagine how much better and funnier it could have been, considering all the talent involved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Absolutely Anything's messages about it being nearly impossible to fix big problems without other problems sprouting in their place. Do you think that eradicating global warming or certain reasons for war would just lead to other environmental issues and other reasons for war?
What audience do you think this movie is intended for? How can you tell? How does the crass/potty humor (the walking dog poop, for example) affect your opinion?
What are the movie's message about human nature and human problems? Are issues as fixable as they seem?
- In theaters: May 12, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 27, 2017
- Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Robin Williams
- Director: Terry Jones
- Studio: Atlas Distribution
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including sexual references, and brief nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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