Director: Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Sean Pertwee, Tim Key, Felicity Montagu, Nigel Lindsay
Written by: Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci
Running Time: 90 mins
Release date: 7th August 2013
Once upon a time there was a period when British cinema only seemed to produce movie spin-offs of popular TV situation comedies. So we got two Steptoe and Son movies, a Dad’s Army, Man About The House and three On The Buses films. It doesn’t happen too often now. In fact, the last British TV spin-off was In The Loop, the big screen outing of Malcolm Tucker and The Thick Of It. So going in to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, there was a little voice in the back of my head saying “Holiday On The Buses!” Thankfully, it’s In The Loop AND Porridge! The Partridge is on fire!
North Norfolk Digital Radio, the graveyard for former DJs, is being taken over by a corporate and changing their name to Shape. Other changes include getting rid of the older radio voices, a choice between night owl, Pat Farrell, and former TV star Alan Partridge. Farrell goes but not without a fight and takes the station hostage, along with a handful of staff and will only speak to the police through he friend, Partridge. Is Alan up to the job? Can he save the station and the hostages? Will it make him a big star again?
I have been a huge fan of Steve Coogan’s creation ever since first hearing him on the cult radio show On The Hour through his different TV incarnations. Partridge is a walking nightmare, a man full of his own self importance, who never says the right thing, never does the right thing and you know the moment he opens his mouth you are going to cringe.
So bringing his monster to the big screen is a huge gamble. It’s been a while since he has been on terrestrial television (a few internet sketches and a short-lived series on Sky Atlantic) so will the public be able to get back into his groove. Absolutely. The second he appears in front of the mic at the radio station, it’s like meeting up with a close friend as if he has never been away. Everything you remember about this bumbling fool is back in place, the banality of his conversations, the mixed metaphors that mean nothing, the fact that he is, well, Alan Partridge.
The plot line isn’t that original. Airheads immediately sprung to mind. What Alpha Papa has going for it is that it’s extremely funny. Gag after gag is thrown out. Some don’t work but more do and it’s the expertise of Coogan knowing his character so well that he can deliver the inane nonsense with such confidence and aplomb. Giving him the chance of being a hero is another genius stroke. There is no way he would ever be a hero but he’s going to give it a good try.
The rest of the cast are perfect for Partridge to bounce off. Colm Meaney makes a terrific straight man while at the same time giving a good performance as the dangerous Pat Farrell. Regulars from I’m Alan Partridge, Felicity Montagu as his long-suffering personal assistant, Lynn, is given a nice bite of the cherry and is a great stooge as is Tim Key as co-host Simon.
This is Coogan’s film, or should I say Alan’s film and it’s hilarious. Coogan’s big screen track record hasn’t been brilliant so it’s nice to see that he can command the screen with his presence. It’s not perfect. A few gags do fall flat and the middle section gets a tad flabby but it’s not a massive criticism considering the so-called comedies that have been released this year so far. I laughed virtually all the way through, some times big belly laughs which is something that I haven’t done in a while at a film (apart from Despicable Me 2) and I can see this being one of the great quotable films of our time.
A cracker? You bet. Funny, funny, funny. Oh, did I say it was funny? A perfect compliment to the Partridge tree!