Director: Declan Lowney
Stars: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key
Who is Alan Partridge? If your answer is ‘I don’t know’ then allow me to explain. Alan (Steve Coogan) is a former BBC chat show host who through a series of unfortunate circumstances (including accidently killing a man on air and punching the BBC director in the face with a turkey) is now a midmorning radio DJ at a local digital station. Now this fictional character has his own movie called Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and I’m relieved to say it’s very good.
Think Dog Day Afternoon but situated at North Norfolk Digital, we see Alan caught up in a siege after veteran D-jock (Alan’s words not mine) Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) takes the staff hostage when he is fired. Alan is the only person Pat will talk to so he becomes the middleman between the police and the hostage-taker. Does Alan find the hero inside himself or does he try to use this tragedy to further his own career? If you’re familiar with him you’ll have already guessed the answer.
Does Alpha Papa live up to the classic TV shows featuring Alan? Yes and no. While this is definitely the Partridge we all know and cringe at, at the same time he’s a slightly nicer version of the self absorbed asshole we all know and love. Yes he’s still a total dick, who as you’ll see at the start is the person who actually suggests to the radio station to sack Pat, but he’s a little bit nicer to those around him especially his downtrodden personal assistant Lynn. This may be an adjustment made due to the shift from TV to film but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.
Thankfully the writing is great as it’s in the capable hands of Partridge veterans Armando Ianucci, Peter Baynham and Coogan himself. The main humour comes from seeing Alan’s ego rise during events that he’s clearly out of his depth in. Partridge attempts to take advantage of the stand off to become famous and get the coveted breakfast slot. He imagines himself as a John McClaine style hero but the audience just sees him as the pathetic former TV star. Through these extraordinary circumstances we get to see him do what he does best – bounce back.
It’s not all about Partridge though. There is fine support from the other characters especially Colm Meaney as the Irish, shotgun-wielding, fired DJ who kicks off the plot, and Tim Key as Sidekick Simon, who spends the duration of the film restrained in duct tape still unable to resist making bad jokes. Meaney makes the character of Pat memorable and extremely sympathetic, always naively thinking the best of the morally dodgy Partridge. There are also brief appearances from Partridge regulars Lynn and Michael which are fun for fans.
The best parts though are when Alan just gets to talk. And when he chats the funny lines come thick and fast. While a hostage, he helps Pat host his radio show asking listeners questions such as ‘have you ever met a truly intelligent bus driver?’ and describing Neil Diamond as ‘the real King of the Jews’. Add to this some genuinely hilarious scenes like Alan telling the station owner about his encounter with a woman in the toilets, and his journey driving to work while miming to Cuddly Toy.
Alpha Papa never reaches the heights of Knowing Me, Knowing You or I’m Alan Partridge but it’s a worthy big screen outing for Coogan’s greatest creation. It’s full of fantastic lines, extremely awkward situations, and Alan being a total arsehole that you can’t help but like. As Shakin’ Stevens described Partridge’s book Bouncing Back, this is ‘lovely stuff’. Needless to say, the audience has the last laugh.
Are you a Partridge fan? Have you seen any of his shows in your country? Or do you have no idea what I’m talking about? Let me know below.