Versatile entertainer Cem Yılmaz continues his game in his latest film
Emrah Güler - ANKARAThere is something appealing for everyone in versatile Cem Yılmaz’s latest film that hit the theaters this week. Its name, “Ali Baba ve 7 Cüceler” (Ali Baba and the 7 Dwarfs), is a testament to that, a sure-footed approach for the film that plays to be a crowd-pleaser and laughter-guaranteed with the veteran comedian’s trademark parodies.
Uncanny and brilliant in capturing the moments of change and socio-cultural dynamics of Turkey, Yılmaz once again touches his magic wand to please the quite diverse audience of Turkey: cinephiles, blockbuster audiences, devoted fans and those hoping for quick laughs. Here, Yılmaz has made the bulk of the film again, directing, writing, co-producing and playing both the protagonist and the villain.
Yılmaz’s films fall into two categories: more personal, heartfelt stories like “Hokkabaz” (The Magician) and “Her Şey Güzel Olacak” (Everything Will Be Fine) on one side, and big productions that take his sharp observations and one-of-a-kind humor from his earlier stand-up shows and bundle them into a narrative-fueled parody. His box-office hits “G.O.R.A.,” “A.R.O.G.” and “Yahşi Batı” fall into this category, as does “Ali Baba and the 7 Dwarves.”
In his three big productions, Yılmaz played the hapless everyday man, a clever yet petty man he so successfully captured in his cartoons in the popular humor magazine, Leman, in early 1990s, and later in his sold-out stand-up shows in late 1990s that brought him the fame he continues to enjoy today. Parody and spoof were the natural embodiment of his humor on screen.
The quick-witted, lazy salesman he loved to dissect for laughter in his stand-up shows became Yılmaz’s go-to man in these three films. The first two films “G.O.R.A.” and “A.R.O.G.” featured the same man, Arif, traveling in space and time, the first taking place as a space adventure and the later in the Stone Age with the help of impressive CGI. The formula was a sure bet for, Yılmaz taking his tried and tested character into a fish-out-of-tank situation, twice.
The salesman rises again
The third blockbuster, “Yahşi Batı,” was a Western spoof with Yılmaz’s humor and style stamped all over. Similar in sound, Aziz replaced Arif in the film, this time traveling to the Wild West of America as an Ottoman.
The formula of both the fish-out-of-tank and the parody stayed intact. His latest will be the fourth film in line that will fall into this bundle in Yılmaz’s filmography.
The dwarfs in the title both refer to characters in the film, epitomized by Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” as well as the garden gnomes the leading character sells. Yes, once again the protagonist is a salesman, this time more in tune with (or more awkward in the face of) the sensibilities of our age.
Ali travels to Sofia, Bulgaria with his partner (and in-law, a common joke in Turkey) with his small business for an international gardening fair. The first scenes at the fair will please Yılmaz’s die-hard stand-up fans, as he channels his perfect salesman persona, all too familiar for many, into his character. This time, the salesman’s ultimate target is not to make a quick buck however he can, but to make it on the global market, and along the way, tell his friends back home his adventures in the “West.”
The first half of the movie plays perfectly as the anxieties of our age are reflected all too lightly with Yılmaz’s unfaltering writing skills and impeccable timing as a comedian. The second half hopes to keep the other audience laughing when the parody-action begins. A mismatched group, including a beautiful Russian woman (to please yet another audience), find themselves fighting a villain out of the Bond movies (played again by Yılmaz).
Cold War spies, zombies, the infallible Rambo and “The Hunger Games” franchise are all referenced as the team fights the villain, with top-notch cinematography and computer-generated effects. Another reference more specific to the Turkish audience is the late singer Barış Manço, with the villain’s name Boris Mancov, and the impromptu concert Ali and his partner give in a police station. While not among Yılmaz’s personal and more universal films, “Ali Baba and the 7 Dwarfs” definitely will not disappoint the Turkish audience.