Review: Ali G Indahouse
2 out of 5 stars
Before there was Borat, there was Ali G.
Released in 2002, Ali G Indahouse was the first of three films featuring the three characters from Sacha Baron Cohen's TV series, Da Ali G Show--the other two films being 2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and 2009's Brüno. Unlike the latter two films, which used the unscripted man-on-the-street format of the TV show, Ali G Indahouse suffers from using a script.
The story is mostly contrived. Alistair Leslie Graham, who goes by his wannabe name, Ali G, is a white kid from the London suburb of Staines who wants desperately to be black. He lives with his grandma and has a girlfriend he calls Me Julie. When the government threatens to close down the center where he teaches a group of boy scouts how to be gangstas (scenes of wasted comedic potential), Ali G goes on a hunger strike outside Parliament to protest. The hunger strike quickly ends when the reporters covering the event tempt him with some KFC. Ali G is then recruited by a conniving Member of Parliament, David Carlton, to run for the representative from Staines. Carlton's plan is for Ali G to fail miserably, embarrassing the Prime Minister (Michael Gambon, Dumbledore from all but the first two Harry Potter films), causing the PM to be ousted in a no-confidence vote, clearing the way for Carlton to become PM. Contrary to Carlton's plans, however, Ali G proves to be wildly popular by "keeping it real." The PM's approval rating soars, and Ali G becomes the PM's adviser. Of course Carlton isn't going to sit by idly while this happens.
The movie falls back on lazy, juvenile humor. Most of the jokes are stillborn and fall flat. What made the TV show so wildly funny--playing off the character with interview subjects who weren't in on the joke--is completely absent from the movie. The movie does have some good moments, such as when Ali and the gang break into the PM's residence and have to break dance through an Entrapment-inspired security system criss-crossed with laser beams. And there is some funny commentary on modern society, such as when Ali has to clarify over the phone an indecipherable message he texted in shorthand.
But without an unwitting victim, Ali G just isn't very funny. Luckily Cohen learned his lesson from this film, and stuck to the format that made his show so funny in the inspired comedy Borat.