16 Oct Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (UK)
SUNDAY 14 December 10.00 am
TUESDAY 16 December 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 90 minutes
Hapless radio host Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is unhappy when he sees his station, North Norfolk Digital, being taken over by a giant media conglomerate and renamed Shape. Events take a dramatic turn when Alan is drawn into an armed siege led by co-presenter Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) that ends up in a slow police chase across Norfolk.
REVIEW BY LOUISE KELLER
With great irreverence and aplomb, Steve Coogan’s loved BBC character Alan Partridge glides onto the big screen in a caper that is both hilarious and endearing. The character was created over 20 years ago by Armando Iannucci (who wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for In The Loop), so if that is the kind of humour that presses your buttons, you’ll jump for joy in praise of Alan Partridge. It’s satirical, quirky and just plain funny with its self-righteous central disc-jock character ready to put both feet in his mouth at the same time, any time. The film’s success is largely due to Coogan, who has honed the character like an old friend and who balances the impossible and improbable situations with comic genius. Screenwriters Neil and Rob Gibbons (along with Iannucci) have penned a delicious screenplay, offering unlimited opportunities for their anti-hero to blunder bluff and depict himself as a right boof-head with uproarious results.
The brilliance of the film is that it only takes a few minutes to establish the tone, the mood, the setting and the characters. We quickly catch on to Alan’s quick wit, offbeat sense of humour and love of self-aggrandisement and note the stark contrast with his sincere, decent Sleepy-Time shift colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney, in fine fettle). The premise is simple: radio station is taken over by new management eager to cut costs. Learning it’s either his job or that of Pat, Alan has no compunction but to preserve his own position, the irony being that Alan becomes the negotiator as the grudge-bearing Pat takes hostages. As Lynn Benfield as Alan’s homespun minder, Felicity Montagu displays the power of understatement, as the ridiculous becomes even more so.
Scary and stressful with lots of shouting, Alan tells the media scrum what it’s like inside the radio station during the siege, adding that it’s a bit like being married. That’s the way the humour goes. The whole scenario is a bit like a comic routine that is superbly done with madcap situations, funny lines and great delivery. The scene when Alan loses his trousers and underpants as he sneaks through a back window and finds himself at the mercy of a press photographer, is outrageously funny. Music is used to great effect – not only stretching the comic aspect but adding emotional clout and a sense of crescendo in the closing sequences.
If life has been a bit rough on you of late, treat yourself to a dose of laughter with Alan Partridge; it’s cheap therapy.
REVIEW BY ANDREW L. URBAN
The Ènglish twerp is a reliable staple of British humour and Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge is like a second cousin to Basil Fawlty, a self centred incompetent whose capacity for grandiose self delusion knows no bounds. Hence his life is a series of disasters, not always avoided. The Partridge character was forged in the hell of television and production luminaries such as Armando Ionucci (In the Loop) worked on him to ensure sharp writing and characterisations.
Out in the open on the cinema screen, Alan Partridge assumes the larger scale of cinema, where his adventure has to be scaled up, too. Hence the plot of his country radio station falling into the hands of Big Radio, with inevitable cost cutting. His loyalty to his fellow jock Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) doesn’t quite stretch the full distance, and things get ugly. A siege ensues, in which Pat is the sieger and the staff are the siegees, while Alan becomes the go-between. We know that’s going to end badly, too.
If you like English comedy of the Absolutely Fabulous kind, this one’s for you. The hurtful gags are all part of that cruel humour that Monty Python helped popularise and others have followed. But the Brits still have the sharpest knives, the silliest eccentricities.
Alan Partridge (what a fowl) is blessed with a loyal assistant in the shape of the meek and kindly Lynn Benfield, deliciously played by matronly Felicity Montagu, who almost steals the show. Colm Meany is a rogue Irish jock with stubble and a broken heart, following the death of his wife. Not even she is sacred in gagland.
The other staff comprises a lovely lot of loons, while the cops are upright and dull – but at least Anna Maxwell-Whitehead grabs our attention as the cop in charge, with her minimalist yet powerful performance, a small role, but crucial to the film’s tone of grounded (if levitating) reality.
This is the kind of absurd escapist comedy that The Goons would have loved; it’s not as zany but it’s just as quick witted.