Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

11 Aug

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When North Norfolk Digital, the radio station that employs Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is taken over by a company called Gordale Media and rebranded as Shape, Alan manages to keep his job at the expense of fellow middle aged DJ Pat Farrel (Colin Meaney). Pat doesn’t handle it so well, and takes the staff at Shape hostage. Alan becomes the contact point between the police and Pat, and as the situation attracts the attention of the media, Alan senses the chance to become a real star.

I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to review Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, as I was worried that I would be too biased. I have long been a fan of the character; I’ve watched the two series of I’m Alan Partridge more times than I care to think about, as well as the various other shows he has appeared in. The shows are endlessly quotable, and the trailer gave me high hopes that the movie would be the same.

Well, having now seen it, I’ve decided it’s worthy of a quick review. Naturally, when something that is successful on TV makes a move to the big screen, there is a worry that it won’t translate so well. The narrative arc required is completely different and tests the writer’s skills on a different level. The first point to make here then is that Alpha Papa has dealt brilliantly with those concerns. It maintains almost all of the elements of Alan that have made him such a brilliant comedy creation, whilst adding a more sympathetic side to him, brilliantly moving him from being just a bumbling idiot to a man with greater emotional range. Not to say he isn’t still a bumbling idiot for large quantities of the movie.

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The film provided pretty much everything I wanted it to. One of the most regularly hilarious elements of Alan is his chit-chat on his show. Thankfully, this is regularly of high quality throughout the film. “Tonight we’re asking, have you ever met a genuinely clever bus driver?” states Alan during one frantic show, forced to think on his feet, displaying the working class snob character traits that have made him such a loveable boob for two decades. He is aided by his usual radio-mate Sidekick Simon (the always amusing Tim Key), who has a penchant for thinking up terrible puns in even the direst circumstances.

Favourite characters from Partridge history make appearances too. The real introduction of Geordie Michael (Simon Greenall) is one of the film’s stronger scenes and, despite having few lines, he proves to be the outstanding supporting character he always was. Alan’s long-time assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) is here, and is one of the few regular characters other than Alan that is afforded some real character development.

The story itself is well crafted. Alan’s role in the hostage crisis is excellent with a brilliant arc that, despite the fairly predictable final outcome, contains enough little surprises to keep you alert and interested. It should also be said by way of praise to director Declan Lowney that the runtime is superbly judged. The film clocks in at 90 minutes, guaranteeing enough time for the story to progress naturally, whilst resisting the temptation to push for a longer film that allows for more Alan stupidity. In judging it so well, Lowney and his writers ensure that the material is never spread too thinly, keeping the laugh rate at an extremely satisfactory level.

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If there is never to be another Alan Partridge movie, then Alpha Papa will stand as an excellent addition to the outstanding portfolio. At face value, it’s just straight up laugh out loud comedy. Look a little deeper and there’s an excellent satire of modern media, and the desire to push a homogonised product onto a public that accepts it because they don’t see that there are other options. This is an attack on BBC Radio 1, Capital FM and the like that dictate what it’s audience will like, rather than exploring real creative talents. In many ways, it is Gordale Media, not Pat Farrel, who are the real villians of the piece. Pat Farrel should be seen as a hero pushed too far, with misguided methods for making his point.

With Coogan in outstanding form as his greatest creation, writing that largely stays true to everything that has forced Alan into the public consciousness for so long, and plenty of nods to everything that’s gone before, this movie will be seen as a success by established fans. There should be enough here too for Partridge novices to enjoy, after all, funny is funny. It is long standing admirers that will take most from this though, and they will leave the cinema ready to go home and watch The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing You and I’m Alan Partridge immediately. In all ways, Norfolk’s favourite son delivers on his biggest ever stage.

8/10

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2 Responses to “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa”

  1. At The Back August 12, 2013 at 15:45 #

    You are wrong about this film. It’s a 9/10.

    • I Liked That Film August 12, 2013 at 16:44 #

      I can’t put my finger on why but I don’t think I could really justify 9/10. Perhaps the fact that for the earlier parts of the film he seems a little bit cooler than Partridge is supposed to be?

      Whatever though, it’s brilliant.

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