Ali [2001]

Ali G addicts have been fretting over the British comedian's spiraling popularity. As word of his outrageous celebrity interviews spreads--the deer-in-the-headlights gaze of his victims as they wrestle with incredulity over his audacious stupidity is itself always worth the price of admission--his pool of potential victims naturally diminishes. Not to worry: Ali G as a character has enough flexibility to make the leap to full-length film. The transition is far from perfect: few moments in Ali G Indahouse can match the unforced hilarity of Da Ali G Show. The film's biggest drawback, in fact, is the absence of the real-life personalities we know from the interview format; it's the friction between them and comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen's imposter shtick that generates so many howlers. Ali G Indahouse, in contrast, hangs on a silly plot. The setup of fictional characters interacting with Ali G simply can't have the same payoff. Said plot is nothing more than a vehicle to subject the hip-hop poseur to a variety of ridiculous situations. He finds himself the unexpected champion in a parliamentary election and has to deal with the devious plotting of the Machiavellian Chancellor of the Exchequer (played by Charles Dance, who undergoes all manner of extreme humiliation). The result is a mix of Dumb and Dumber and Leslie Nielsen-esque pratfalls, with a hint of the Peter Sellers character in Being There. A good deal of the intended irony falls flat, and the litany of dated jokes calculated to offend all over the spectrum gets tiresome: from raunchy malapropisms to Ali G's recurrent obsession with being perceived as gay. But Baron Cohen's genius for getting under the skin of his creation remains undiluted. One aspect of special interest to Ali G fans is the light Ali G Indahouse throws on topics that are always behind the scenes in the Ali G Show context. We actually see Ali's Nana and his crib in suburban Staines, and "me Julie" (Kellie Bright) becomes a focal point as the story unwinds. Genial Borat makes an appearance (and gets dissed by Ali); we even learn the secret origin of Ali G's name (an abbreviation of Alistair Graham). It all might add up to a guilty pleasure, but hey--check yaself before ya wreck yaself. --Tom May

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