Maybe it's the passing of time mellowing my attitude to what I once viewed as crimes against cinema. Maybe it's because I have actually now seen more movies that ARE crimes against cinema (including at least two feature films for British comedy creations that were nowhere near as much fun as Ali G). Whatever the reason, I decided to rewatch Ali G Indahouse this week for the first time in over a decade, expecting to put myself through some pain, and I did not hate it.
The plot sees a number of ridiculous coincidences leading to Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) becoming an elected MP. For everything he says and does that could be disastrous, or at least a major social faux pas, he somehow goes up in the estimation of Joe Public. But Ali doesn't realise that he is being used as a pawn by a scheming politician (Charles Dance) who wants to oust and replace the Prime Minister (Michael Gambon).
The history of small-screen British comedy being adapted into feature films is a troubled one. For every success you can name at least half a dozen failures (I'm not going to name them here, some people may become curious and seek them out, which will make me feel guilty for their temporary madness). Ali G Indahouse at least manages, thanks to the script by Cohen and Dan Mazer, to give fans of the character a lot of what they will enjoy. His constant attempts to be cool hide a very obvious lack of cool, but his own lack of self-awareness almost manages to make him still seem . . . cool, when he's not being a complete moron.
Director Mark Mylod may have a filmography overflowing with TV work but he does a decent enough job here, especially as he obviously has to work within the constraints of the silly plot. The fake start is a bit annoying, perhaps more so because we've now seen the big cinematic opening segue into something smaller and more intimate in many other TV-to-feature openings, but it's decently paced, energised by a very enjoyable soundtrack (equal parts genuinely good music and dollops of cheese), and helped by the fact that luminaries such as Dance and Gambon are very willing to go along with even the more juvenile gags.
And that's the biggest problem here. I laughed quite a few times, to my own surprise, but none of the scenes worked that were supposed to provide the biggest guffaws (Ali G handcuffed to some railings that are being cleaned by a blind man, the moment our main character meets the Queen, naughtiness in the residence of the PM that is heard by the guests while the PM is in a meeting with a guest, and more). Yet there were enough smaller chuckles, often just single lines of dialogue, that kept me amused enough throughout.
Cohen doesn't act, he creates characters that he completely embodies with ease. So, despite the varying quality of the gags here, he's consistently excellent in the role. People who forget that Martin Freeman is in this should give it a rewatch to remind themselves that . . . Martin Freeman is in this. He's a friend to Ali G, as is Tony Way, and is arguably even more ridiculous and desperate than our lead. Dance and Gambon suffer their indignities with aplomb, Kellie Bright is good as the famous Julie, referred to at almost every opportunity by Ali G as "me Julie", and Rhona Mitra has a small role as an attractive temptress helping Dance to reach his end goal.
If you don't like the character of Ali G then you're not going to like this film. If you do like the character of Ali G then you still may not like this film. It's not ever going to be essential viewing, or anyone's favourite comedy, but it's not the travesty that some might lead you to believe, especially compared to some British comedies that we've been subjected to in the past few years.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can pick it up here.