Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best to keep 'Ali G' out of your house

Ali G Indahouse: The Movie (2004)
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Kate Hedges, and Kellie Bright
Director: Mark Mylod
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

British gansta-rapper wanna-be and village-dwelling moron Ali G (Cohen) becomes the pawn of an evil politician (Dance) who wants to discredit the Prime Minister (Gambon) so he can seize the reins of power.

"Ali G Indahouse" is one of those comedies I have a hard time watching. Its main character is so stupid that I am so embarrassed on his behalf that it pains me to watch the story unfold. I am also embarrassed on the behalf of the people he interacts with. The end result is that the comedy is a bit muted for me, and I suspect that things others are falling off the couch in fits over have me merely chuckling.

However, the fact that the character of Ali G is such a moron that my pity for him overwhelms the fun I might otherwise have with this movie is but a small part of the problems with it.

A far bigger problem is that it's too slow in the wind-up. The first half hour is tortuously slow and the jokes are fairly unfunny (even when allowing for my personality quirks). I understand the film's desire to establish its cast of British "wiggers", but it does so in too languid a pace and it doesn't give quite enough contrast between them and normal society to make this part of the movie entertaining.

Things start picking up when the villains (the evil Deputy Prince Minister and his personal assistant, played with perfect English upper-crust snobbishness by veteran actor Charles Dance and the gorgeous Kate Hedges) are firmly placed in the picture and Ali G. runs his campaign for election to the House of Commons. And by the time Ali G. is dealing with British and global politics, screwing up an audience with the Queen, and proving to be the worst thing for a villain's master plot ever, the film finally obtains the break-neck pace it should have started with. And the jokes are also funnier.

Despite getting better in its second and third acts, the biggest problem with the film is that the character of Ali G. doesn't work very well outside the context it was originally created in. Ali G. originated as a faux reporter who would hold interviews with real politicians and public figures who didn't know they being set up. Ali G. the interviewer generated humor by mocking rap culture stereotypes and confusing people with utter stupidity, a mix that doesn't quite work in this film. Out of his intended context, Ali G. is simply too dumb to be believable or even entertaining, particularly when surrounded by a fairly tame and realistic world.

That said, the actors who belong in that tame and realistic world that Ali G's antics unfold against all perform superbly, and the film works far better for the fact that serious actors like Michael Gambon and the aforementioned Dance and Hedges play their characters straight. But that's still not enough to fully make "Ali G indahouse" worth sitting through. (Check out "Hot Fuzz" for far more effective British satire.)

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