Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
This weekend sees the release of The Brothers Grimsby, the latest comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen. And here’s the thing about Mr. Cohen – even when I don’t love his movies, I find him fascinating. From his early career as a television prankster who roped real people into interacting with his fictional characters, to his Hollywood career, where he worked with directors like Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton, he has never shown us a half-measure. Cohen is a performer who commits to his characters and his concepts like no one else.
And since his new movie is on the horizon, this certainly feels like the perfect opportunity to run down his finest moments on screen.
“Don’t Forget to Smile”
It’s telling that Martin Scorsese cast Cohen in Hugo, a film whose supporting roles are occupied with the likes of Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Richard Griffiths, and Jude Law. At first, Cohen is very much the comic relief villain of this adventure – a bumbling station inspector who can’t for the life of him capture the title orphan. But the story offers him new dimension with each passing scene, slowly allowing this wounded (figuratively and literally) character to transform into a human being. In the film’s final scene, which gives a moment of closure for each and every character, Cohen is only given a few seconds to let us to see that he’s finally starting to take care of his body, mind, and soul. He pulls it off.
“My Name Is James Bond. James…Bond.”
Across 18 episodes of Da Ali G Show, Cohen’s flagship character found himself in so many remarkable interviews and irritated so many fascinating subjects. Almost every sequence is a gem, with Cohen’s hilariously undereducated, faux gangster testing the patience of cops and businessmen and government officials. However, one sequence stands out above the rest in my mind. Ali G travels to Hollywood to pitch a TV show, titled Spyz, to a series of baffled producers. Naturally, his pilot is amateurish garbage that no one will ever want to air. Watching the producers watch this junk, and then watching them try to avoid telling this guy that’s he brought them garbage, is skin-crawling and hilarious and Da Ali G Show in a nutshell. As he would prove time and time again, America is the greatest straight man a comic actor could ask for.