If you're on an intergalactic alien council, and if test Earth's worthiness by bequeathing godlike power to one member of humanity selected at random, you could do worse than picking a benign Simon Pegg character. Granted, you could also do better. You could give that power to career good guys like, say, George Clooney, or Matt Damon, or perhaps Paul Rudd.
But if Absolutely Anything blessed anyone other than Pegg with omnipotence, it probably wouldn't be a very interesting movie. Pegg has made his bones playing flawed people, from Shaun of the Dead to The World's End, but the nice guy attitude he brings from one project to the next is key. He tends toward playing screw-ups, but they're lovable screw-ups.
So he's a strong lead for the latest film by Monty Python troupe member Terry Jones. In Absolutely Anything, Pegg plays sad-sack teacher Neil, who is granted the ability to do - you guessed it - anything by a cabal of aliens (voiced by Jones and his fellow Pythons, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin) to gauge Earth's moral fortitude. If Neil uses their gift for good, Earth survives, but if he uses it for evil the planet perishes.
Stakes are high, so naturally Neil goofs off and spies on his gorgeous neighbor (Kate Beckinsale), gives himself a hot bod, and makes his dog talk. (The dog, Dennis, is voiced by the late Robin Williams in one of his final roles.)
Absolutely Anything's trailer has a sense of familiarity (there's a distinct Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy vibe to the footage) and feels predictable, but there's a promise of zany charm here to go along with the terrific cast. If it looks derivative, it feels no less watchable.
Absolutely Anything arrives in theaters August 14th, 2015.
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