Blighty’s very own white homeboy/gangsta makes it from the small to bigscreen in “Ali G Indahouse,” an extremely silly, grossly scatological but often amusing picture that plays like “Dumb & Dumber” meets Spike Lee in London. A media event in the U.K., where alternative comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s TV character has a wide cult following, the low-budget item looks to mop up fast cash in its first few weeks, though may, like Ali G with Me Julie, lack staying power. Offshore, where many jokes and cultural refs will prove difficult, if not impossible, to translate, its passage will rely on clever marketing. Stateside, pic is likely to be delayed until a series Baron Cohen is currently making for HBO has imprinted the character on American minds.
Baron Cohen’s comic creation was born three years ago on satirical TV series “The 11 O’clock Show” and rapidly spawned his own shows and videos. Conceptually a close relative of Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna Everage, Ali G was another in the growing line of fake British TV celebs but took the concept several stages further with gross-out humor, racial parody and posing his terminally stupid questions to real-life personalities who often weren’t in on the joke. Kitted out in garish attire and pencil-line goatee, Ali G was a racially vague, stereotypical pot-smoking rapper whose friends and self-contained world were only ever heard about: his “nan,” his g.f. Me Julie, his homie gang Westside Massive and his turf of Staines, west of London. His distinctive patois was a mixture of half-Asian/half-black slang, delivered in a Thames Valley-cum-rapper working-class accent.
Pic’s main leap of faith is making Ali G’s universe concrete. Not only do we see the streets of Staines (actually a somewhat comfy suburb) but also we learn his full name (Alistair Leslie Graham), that he and his “nan” are totally white, Me Julie is a sensible white nurse, and Westside Massive is composed of only three other complete nerds.
Film wastes little time getting to the “plot,” with Ali G protesting closure of local John Nike Leisure Centre and ending up elected Staines’ member of parliament. He’s helped by ambitious deputy prime minister David Carlton (Charles Dance), who hopes to embarrass his own party when Ali G makes a complete fool of himself discrediting the country’s leader (Michael Gambon) and getting himself made PM. Unfortunately for Carlton, Ali G’s outrageous policy suggestions prove popular with the young demographic. Film’s gross humor, which isn’t so far from the “Carry On” films in spirit, is delivered in a series of set pieces which push the envelope of acceptability to its limits. None of the sacred cows of modern British life is exempt, but many jokes and refs will mean nothing beyond U.K. auds. However, by making the government full of old school Tory types, pic misses opportunity to spoof Tony Blair’s New Labour trendiness.
Still, Baron Cohen’s physical shtick is immensely impressive. Rest of cast plays it straight, though Martin Freeman makes individual impression as his sidekick Ricky C, and Dance throws his actorly caution to the wind in film’s memorable coda.
Technical credits are OK but with no frills, and TV comedy director Mark Mylod brings absolutely no personal signature to his first feature chore. Even during 80-odd minutes there are patches where fizz goes seriously flat.