Directed By: Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan, Tim Key
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
We’ve had our fair share of British sitcoms making the transition from modestly sized TV screens to the confines of cinema over the years, with ‘The Inbetweeners’ a runaway success. Yet many don’t quite possess the satirical bite or awkward demeanour of Steve Coogan’s attention-craving egomaniac Alan Partridge. Dabbling as a bit-part player in high profile Hollywood hilarity, Coogan goes back to his obscure pop-loving DJ roots of Norwich with an imaginatively titled and belated big-screen outing. ‘HAHAS’ aplenty or an unfortunate case of ‘Smell My Cheese, You Mother’?
‘Alpha Papa’ kicks off with Partridge content to ‘bounce’ off his radio partner-in-crime Sidekick Simon (Tim Key), yet has his sights firmly set on taking the reins of the highly coveted breakfast slot. With the exuberance of youth favoured, it isn’t long before North Norfolk Digital is the target of a corporate revamp. Officially under the new name ‘Shape’, the station’s new bosses contemplate ruthless cutting of its current team, with late-night and long time host Pat Farrell played by Colm Meaney a target.
Confirmed as a casualty after Alan’s ‘noble’ contribution to their meetings, Pat vows to make an emphatic statement. Returning to the scene of what he deems a ‘crime’ against his career, shotgun-wielding Farrell wreaks havoc on the station by holding many of his ex-colleagues hostage in a bitter attempt to prove his worth. Refusing to communicate with the authorities, Alan is called in as an unlikely negotiator to resolve the situation. Lives may be threatened, yet Alan inevitably sees this as the ideal opportunity to breathe new life into his flagging public persona..
Breaking convention here by remaining in the same surroundings of the character’s acclaimed televised triumphs, instead of the clichéd ‘let’s head abroad’ attempts, ‘Alpha Papa’s high concept expectedly overcompensates for the lack of a pure cinematic feel to proceedings despite director Lowney’s best efforts. Its self knowing pot shots at sending up its ‘siege mentality’ however are subtly executed, with a particularly cheeky riff on British crime drama’s obsession with seaside-based face offs wonderfully realised.
Thankfully, liberties aren’t taken in what makes Coogan’s Partridge tick in the crucial gags department either. From the inspired yet broad musical lip-syncs to the infamous politically incorrect swipes he’s renowned for, the film thrives on a consistently laugh out loud script (Armando Iannucci back on writing duty) well-versed in its retaining of sharp one-liners and physical comedy. For all his relentless outlandish wit and peculiar figure movements, die-hard fans will be particularly delighted at the inclusion of his regular ‘sparring partners’ in the form of Felicity Montagu’s appallingly treated PA Lynn and Simon Greenall’s oddball Geordie.
A minor mid-section dip in quality showing the strain of fully fleshing out a ‘sitcom’ character at full length aside, ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’ is a hilarious and satisfying outing that succeeds by showing an admirable lack of compromise in the integrity of its ‘star’ creation.
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