Monday, 19 August 2013

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

****
At long last Steve Coogan brings his comic creation to the big screen and succeeds in hilarious fashion. Though the central conceit – a siege at North Norfolk Digital – upgrades Alan’s story to an intentionally-more cinematic outing, the action stays firmly in Norfolk. It’s an outlandish storyline but hey, this is comedy and it’s certainly not an incongruous gimmick like a holiday abroad for the entire cast. The Partridge Universe is thus expanded while staying close and very true to its roots.

North Norfolk Digital has been taken over by a large conglomerate and been rebranded as the more youth-aimed ‘Shape’. A victim of its restructuring, disgruntled DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) comes back to the station armed and takes everyone hostage. Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is recruited by the police to assist in the negotiations.

The simplicity of the story is key to its success. The action surrounds one main location - the radio station – and its sheer lack of glamour is used to splendid comic effect. Nakatomi Plaza this is not. The mores of the siege genre are followed to the T (negotiation through bullhorns, media circus etc) but in a quirky and exquisitely Partridge manner.

Alan Partridge’s shortcomings are legion: he’s bigoted, shallow, egotistical and selfish, to name just a few. The film fleshes out that persona, but revealing (even more so) that he’s only human. His awkwardness is intrinsically English and his behaviour, while not entirely forgivable, is understandable. Well, sort of. Coogan is wonderful in the role. You feel sorry for Alan but accept who he is and you’ll always end up rooting for him.

Declan Lowney has a long and impressive CV (Father Ted is just one of the great TV comedies he’s directed) and he’s worked with Coogan before on the little-seen-but-rather-lovely Cruise of the Gods. He draws great performances from all and exacts devastating comic timing. The always-superb Colm Meaney brings bona fide Hollywood heft to the table and is alternately funny and scary. Solid support comes from Partridge regulars Lynn Benfield, Simon Key, Simon Greenall, Nigel Lindsay and Phil Cornwell, along with an effective host of new blood. Writing duo, twins Neil and Rob Gibbons reinvigorated Partridge with Mid Morning Matters which established the film’s foundation and, I imagine, helped bring this to fruition. Here they supply a fine, economically-scripted and stupendously funny cinematic outing.

It’s peculiar sharing the normally-confined-to-your-home experience of Alan Partridge with an audience who will, undoubtedly, be laughing their heads off so I cannot recommend this enough. NB: While not as earth-shaking as some of Marvel’s recent output, it’s worth staying a while as the credits roll.






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