Review of ‘Ali G IndaHouse’
Big up to the West Staines Massive! Rapper and self-appointed yoof spokesman Ali G is breaking into the movie business, and his debut feature is finally here, surfing on a tidal wave of media hype. In the UK, the last few years have seen big screen versions of ‘Mr Bean’ and Kevin and Perry, from ‘Harry Enfield and Chums’. Each was a terrible movie, but both made stacks of cash. Ali G at least boasts slightly more sophisticated humour.
This film could easily have been annoying as hell. Sacha Baron Cohen’s wigga persona, Ali G, was appearing at too many award ceremonies, and in the videos of over-age pop harridans. Would an aggressively marketed, entirely predictable comedy be the last straw? Somehow though Ali G Indahouse is funny enough to earn plenty more indulgence for the likeable, clever and unpredictable celebrity.
Aside from Baron Cohen and Rivera, Ali G Indahouse casts Kellie Bright as Ali’s often-referred to girlfriend, Me Julie. Best known for her vocal talents – she plays Kate in Radio 4’s long running soap ‘The Archers’ – Bright’s presence marks the first appearance of Ali’s girlfriend, who remained unseen on the TV show. Other Baron Cohen characters favourites, such as Kazakhstan television reporter Borat make brief cameos – as does supermodel Naomi Campbell. Fortunately Madonna does not make an appearance – Baron Cohen had hoped to capitalise on his association with the Queen of Pop (he starred in her video for Music), but scheduling conflicts made her involvement impossible.
Shot mainly in London over the summer of 2001, the film also has Ali visiting his spiritual homeland: South Central LA (well, in his dreams at least). The £5million production took in a week’s location work in the heart of LA’s gangland, and reportedly encountered the ire of the LAPD, who were unhappy at the risks the crew took by filming there. Still, at least one cast member was probably used to it: Emilio Rivera, who plays Rico in the film, had already cut his teeth on South Central thriller ‘Training Day’ opposite Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.
The plot is unashamedly ludicrous. Ali, having been convinced by the Deputy Prime Minister to stand for a by-election in Staines – even though he’s not “bi” (-sexual) – becomes an MP. He stumbles from success to success, not realising he’s actually being used to get rid of his new friend the inept Prime Minister by the manipulative and evil Deputy.
Fortunately all of this is secondary to a stream of quick-witted gags and visual jokes, and enjoyable background about the character. We meet Ali’s hopelessly unthreatening “crew”, get a tour around Ali’s spiritual home, the John Nike leisure centre (“it’s like what Mecca is to the Jews”). We meet his old granny-like Mum waking Ali up while the dog is in the bed biting a very tender area of the male body, this very unrealistic but extremely funny comedy is brought in throughout the film. We are shown Ali’s liking to super-model sexual fantasies while he ineptly kisses his girlfriend Me Julie. It’s all toilet humour, playground antics, unsubtle drug references and ironically knowingly sexist joshing – like a funnier, dirtier, tuned-in and turned-on Carry-On.
There’s some fine satire at the expense of Ali’s persona and his “Is it because I is black” delusions. The early scenes focus around the “Staines massif” is a satisfyingly hard slap in the face for the “keeping it real”, “in da ghetto” white middle classes.
But it soon becomes apparent that the character has lost some of his subversive edginess. This is most glaring when he moves on to the House Of Commons. The fictional MPs we meet here are cartoonish fools, painted with broad, clumsy strokes, rather than the very real public figures Cohen was so skilled at humiliating in the TV series.
This loss is more than made up for with bucket loads of absurdist humour. The Deputy PM informs the house that he is “a bell-end” when reading a speech written by Ali, a trip to HM Customs & Excise leads to a huge toking session, and Ali’s popularity rockets as he decrees that only “fit” female immigrants should be allowed into the country. The scene where Ali puts the special herbs that he stole from Customs into the tea at a UN conference. Leading the assembled delegates to vote on a motion that Iran be sent off to the garage to get some crisps – is worth all the Cheech And Chong films put together.
Unfortunately, after this terrific high point the whole thing collapses with less dignity than one of Ali’s increasingly annoying pratfalls. The ridiculous plot becomes far more grating as the film ploughs on towards its hopelessly flat ending. The jokes dry up, Ali G becomes tiring after such prolonged exposure, and there is no dramatic tension whatsoever. The final 30 minutes are almost bad enough to diminish all the pleasure of the first 60.
Ali’s film will undoubtedly be a huge success with the younger generation as the sick humour and sexual references are all very appealing and relevant to the younger age band. But whether or not this film will seem appealing to the older people in society is still to be seen. Many people could get offended with the loose terminology and sexist attitude to women. Other aspects towards the film that people may fine unsuitable and inappropriate are the over usage of women for their bodies to amuse and build up Ali’s picture. Also the abundance of drugs that are either referred to or even been used during the film could cause offense and unease to the people who are watching the film. All in all if Ali G’s gross-out humour is to your taste then this film is for you. If not look elsewhere.