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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 17:23 GMT
Ali G keeps it real
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By the BBC's Caroline Westbrook
line

There has already been a lot of publicity surrounding the big screen debut of Sacha Baron Cohen's outlandish alter ego.

Ali G holds court outside the Houses of Parliament
Ali G becomes MP for his beloved Staines
There have been posters featuring Ali G wielding a smoking machine gun, the character's ill-judged BBC Radio 1 appearance and his saucy top five duet with Shaggy.

But aside from the hype, the question many people are asking is whether Cohen can wring any more mileage out of a character that many consider to be well past its prime?

Well yes and no really - for like many similar comedies before it, this is a hit and miss affair, not always on the mark but boasting enough decent gags not to outstay its welcome.

The real masterstroke with Ali G In Da House is that for the first time we are given the chance to see the self-proclaimed leader of the "West Staines Massiv" in his natural habitat, with a fair proportion of the movie actually set and filmed there.

Hero

All of which only serves to further highlight the character's ludicrous behaviour - his attempts to start and maintain gangland rivalry in reserved suburbia not only give the film some of its funniest moments but also lend Ali an air of reality which he has never had before.

The town also features heavily in the film's plot, which sees our hero becoming MP for Staines after a stunt to save his local leisure centre is spotted by the Chancellor (Charles Dance).

Sacha Baron Cohen and Kellie Bright as Ali G and Julie
Ali G does love his Julie after all
With his laidback attitude, outlandish dress sense and total misunderstanding of just about everything, Ali soon becomes hugely popular in parliament.

But when he discovers he is in fact a pawn in the Chancellor's plot to overthrow the PM (Michael Gambon) and stake his own claim to 10 Downing Street, he finds himself having to save the prime minister, his own reputation, his relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend Julie (Kellie Bright) and of course, his beloved Staines.

It does not always hit the spot, and there are times when the material feels forced - but there are still more than enough good jokes to spare.

Expand

Ali and his pals using their breakdancing skills to co-ordinate a break-in to Chequers is a particular highlight and the character is afforded rather more depth than he is on the small screen.

We get the impression he cares about Julie, despite his constantly roving eye and ridiculously overblown image.

And with a running time of less than 90 minutes, it is consistently fast-moving and watchable even when it is not as funny as it might have been.

It is likely that in the not too distant future Cohen will have to prove he is more than just a one-trick pony and come up with other characters (a la Steve Coogan or Harry Enfield), but for now Ali G's appeal remains evident.

Expect this to be one of the bigger homegrown hits of the year.

Ali G In Da House is released nationwide on 22 March

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Ali G Indahouse
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See also:

20 Mar 02 | Film
Ali G premières In Da House
01 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Ali G 'heading Stateside'
18 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Radio 1 apologises for Ali G outburst
16 May 01 | TV and Radio
Ali G takes home spare Bafta
01 May 01 | Business
Big Brother, Ali G boost C4 revenue
15 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Complaints over Ali G catchphrase
08 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Ali G 'in da movies'
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