Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: Movie Review
Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Nigel Lindsay, Phil Cornwell, Tim Key, Simon Greenall
Director: Declan Lowney
Steve Coogan's most iconic comedy creation comes to the big screen with the Brit comedy, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Coogan is hapless radio DJ Alan Partridge, who's still working at a local UK radio station pushing his own brand of banal and pedantic chat on the people of Norwich with his show Mid Morning Matters. But something sinister is afoot at the station with a corporate takeover threatening to sweep through and clear out the chaff.
When Partridge gets whiff of the fact it's either he or fellow night time DJ Pat (played by Colm Meaney) who face the chop, he does the only decent thing Alan can do - urges the new station bosses to get rid of Pat. But Pat's not taking it lying down - and comes back armed with a grudge and a shotgun at the launch of the new station.
Pretty soon, Partridge, whose star has been firmly in the descent, is back in the limelight as Pat's confidant at the siege and the police's negotiator... will Alan save the day or will the chance thrusting of him back into the media spotlight cause his ego to run riot?
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a particularly British film, which will resonate with the ex-pat audience but will be loved for some of its comedic subtleties. And a lot of that is due to Steve Coogan's acting and the exceptionally strong writing on show, which parodies the banality of local radio ("Yesterday's meat at today's prices") and yet also deals with the seismic shifts of conglomerates taking over whole rafts of local stations in the UK markets.
Anyone au fait with Partridge will know what to expect - moments of cringeworthy asides and comments coupled with some endlessly quotable bon mots. Granted, all of those are present and correct (some with deadly accuracy) but there is also a subtlety to Coogan's performance and a slyness to the writing which almost threatens to fly over your head at times.
Whether it's a sly look or a clever one-liner, Coogan and his team of writers have nailed the transition of Partridge to the big screen. That said, while the story starts to run a little out of puff during its final third, the ratio of gags to screen time is particularly high - and an impressively fleshed out Partridge proves central to the whole story. Strong support comes from Montagu as Partridge's long-suffering PA Lynn and Colm Meaney adds a degree of volatility to the unfolding siege that's hard to ignore.
But it's Partridge's parochial show throughout - whether he's dissing Pat by saying "he's Irish, to be sure", miming in his car to the middle of the road rock of Roachford (see the clip below) or running from a one night stand by squealing that "she's a drunk racist, I can take one but not both", Coogan's timing and comic subtlety is immaculate. He also brings the inherent sadness of this character to the fore as well with one joking exchange over his final message to his family bordering on the tragic.
Belly laughs and subtle sniggers are the order of the day with Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Complete with subtle digs at the radio industry that insiders will cherish but outsiders won't be isolated by, the corporate takeover's given a slightly new twist, embracing everything that was iconic about radio in the UK in the 80s and yet cocking a snook at it. (And when was the last time you saw a film end its tension on a crummy seaside pier?)
Thankfully, Coogan et al have chosen not to rest on their laurels and rely on old material for gags despite there being a wealth of them around in the character of Alan Partridge. It's a sly move, ensuring this cinematic outing has a freshness and British comic joie de vivre that's as addictive as it is amusing.