When North Norfolk Digital radio goes through a re-branding and modernisation it looks like one of the older DJ’s isn’t going to make the cut, and when the choice comes down to Alan Partridge and late night DJ, Pat Farrell, Alan comes out on top. Pat doesn’t take the news too well, taking the entire station hostage, only agreeing to talk to the police via Alan as the intermediary, and so the lives of the hostages are in the hands of the once popular TV star.
Held as a comedy classic here in the UK but relatively unknown around the rest of the world, Alan Partridge is the brainchild of Steve Coogan, Peter Baynham and Armondo Innocci, and started life as a bit character on the mock-news and current affairs show, The Day Today. Seeing the potential of the self-important blowhard, the team let him fly solo on the mock-talk show, Know Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge, before placing him front and centre in the seminal sitcom, I’m Alan Partridge, which followed the adventures of the down on his luck, ex-talk show host as he re-tried to climb the ladder of success.
Making an Alan Partridge film would always be a tough nut to crack, its limited international appeal would mean that its budget would have to be kept low, which, in all fairness, could actually be a positive because for the character to remain fully intact as a cinematic entity, the scale of a Partridge film would have to kept small. So, no celebrity cameos, no globetrotting and, good lord, no holiday exploits.
Alternatively, keeping the project as small as the show would raise the question of why it is a film at all. Some success has been made to find a good balance, though I imagine that some people will still wonder why the film wasn’t made as a special TV project, especially when it has this month’s other British comedy, The World’s End, to compete with; a film altogether more theatrical in pretty much every respect.
So, visually pinned down and with a story that’s silly, over the top but quite low-key, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa has what to recommend it?
Well, it’s very funny, even, one can imagine, to those who have never actually seen the television incarnation of the character (though you would be better served by watching at least I’m Alan Partridge before catching the flick). The character, despite the years since said show, is still precisely the same and exactly how we love him, and with the original writing team all onboard the story feels like it belongs in the confines of the Partridge-verse.
As always, Steve Coogan puts his heart and soul into the character, his reactions and responses being as vital as the scripted dialogue, with other mainstay characters also turning up to varying degrees of importance.
It has to be said that worries of its exportability are still valid, as it’s essentially British in its outlook, but is very much different to any other comedy you will have seen of late and most certainly worth a watch, if not at the cinema then definitely on its home entertainment release. It might not be the impossibly legendary piece of cinematic gold that many of the fans will have been hoping for, but it’s quotable and will, I suspect, get even better with further viewings.
B grade – for storytelling
C grade – for visuals
B+ grade – for hilarity
Overall grade – B-
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is currently on release in the UK with no date yet for a US release.