Ali G Indahouse
is a 2002 movie starring Sacha Baron Cohen
as his inimitable
comic creation, Ali G
. The movie is basically your straightforward TV-to-cinema spin-off ("Working Pictures
wanted something called a tax writeoff
..."), but not as awful
as this origin might suggest.
Firstly some background information for those who don't get Channel 4 on their TVs (e.g. Americans). Ali G (aka Alistair Graham) is a caucasian man in his late twenties, who is entirely commited to hip-hop/gangsta rap culture (or rather his skewed take on it), to the extent that he believes himself not only to be black, but also to be an incredibly tough and libidinous rapper. He lives in a very placid London suburb called Staines, where he hangs out with his friends, Dave and Ricky C, collectively the West Staines Massive. Ali's delusion causes him to refer to his middle-class environs as 'the ghetto', and to view his left-over-from-school rivalry with the slightly cooler East Staines Massive (led by Hassan B) as a battle on the scale of the legendary East Coast/West Coast feud.
The plot, such as it is, begins with Ali teaching some cub scouts how to 'Keep It Real' at the John Nike Community Centre in Staines. Disaster strikes, as the council decide to close the centre down. Ali stages a protest (chains himself to the railings in the high street, and makes a feeble attempt at a hunger strike), which backfires disasterously. While this is happening, he happens to be spotted by the deputy Prime Minister (played by Charles Dance), who is looking for a young, ethnic candidate for the local by-election.
Of course, he selects Ali (with the intention of causing a leadership challenge when Ali loses). But naturally, Ali's accidental or misinterpreted (or just plain common sense) policies get him into office, and soon he is practically the PM's right-hand man. The Deputy PM then tries to wreak his revenge on Ali, and the movie culminates in a scheme to demolish Staines to extend a nearby airport. Can Ali save Staines? Will he chose his girlfriend ("Me Julie", played by the annyoing sister out of Mike and Angelo) over the wiles of the DPM's personal assistant (Rhona Mitra)? Well, watch the movie and find out, innit?
A huge amount of perfunctory, sketch-like material is crammed into each of the three acts as well, most of which would be spoilt if I elaborated further.
Basically, it's Being There with lots of knob jokes. But what a fantastic array of puerile humour there is- although none of it is likely to win any prizes, the movie is funny throughout (provided you have a suitably childish and unsubtle sense of humour, like me.) I would say that the movie succeeds in fleshing out the Ali G character, one of the funniest and most rewarding aspects for the writers and performers being the realisation of Ali's version of 'gang culture', where a whole sub-section of suburban society shares Ali's delusion.
The 'members of parliament being bemused by youth culture' aspect of the plot is not overworked (but does crop up occasionally, resulting in a comparitive paucity of laughs). Many of the supporting roles are excellently nutty creations, and Dance is a good sport. A niggling fault is that the whole film feels somewhat claustrophobic and jumpy- as it's about 95% jokes and 5% plot, there is no space for showing the repercussions of Ali's rise to power in any depth. We're told he's an MP, then we're told he's the PM's right-hand man, but the plot never goes beyond being an excuse to set up the jokes.
If you are familiar with the character, even if you're a bit sick of him and underwhelmed by his limited TV outings, I recommend this movie. If you aren't familiar with the character (or UK playground slang) you will probably not understand it or find it remotely amusing. Throwaway entertainment, but competently executed.