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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Review
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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A media conglomerate has just taken over North Norfolk Digital and cheesy mid-morning DJ Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is hanging onto his job by a thread, as the new bosses are looking to bring it into the twenty first century. In the end, it’s Irish old timer Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) who gets kicked off the station.

At a party thrown by the new bosses, to celebrate the station’s rebrand, Pat turns up with a shot-gun and takes a dozen people hostage.

The police send Alan Partridge in to act as their negotiator, to try to end the seige, but old habits die hard, and rather than helping the authorities bring an end to the crisis, Alan becomes all too aware that the incident is boosting his celebrity profile.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The grotesque that is Alan Partridge was first introduced to audiences nearly twenty years ago as a sports presenter on Chris Morris’s satire on news programmes, The Day Today. He returned as a chat-show host in Knowing Me, Knowing You, but by the late 1990s, as a failed TV presenter, he was reduced to a local radio show in Norwich. Every step of the way, the gag has always been his desperate, hopeless need for approval.

Another decade has passed and after some lower profile outings in the meantime, Steve Coogan now has the chance to put his most famous character on the big screen, and to warrant the extra scope afforded by the jump to the highest of platforms, the regular team of writers, including Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham, throw in elements more associated with the cinema than local radio-based sitcoms; in the studio, Partridge is on top form, as he and his sidekick (Tim Key) tackle such key issues as “What is the worst monger? Fish, iron, rumour or war?” The attempt at satire, as a major media firm takes over the small radio station feels somewhat lazy and once a hostage situation kicks in, the Z-list celebrity finds himself as out of his depth as the writers. Alan Partridge is not – and is not meant to be – an action hero, but rather than parody the genre, it feels like it’s taking itself too seriously.

While continuing to be funny throughout – with laugh-out-loud moments for those who know and love the character the most – the film itself is pedestrian and weak. With anyone else as the lead character – or for anyone unfamiliar with Alan Partridge – this could feel like an in-joke. It dabbles with the fish-out-of-water template so often employed by comedy-writers, but unlike the work of Edgar Wright, for example, rather than being clever in its knowing use of some standard cinematic cliches, it feels too obvious and at times, a little clunky.

The genius of Alan Partridge as a character is the way that he is frequently reinvented as he fails in one career, giving the writers a plethora of new opportunities to explore, but here, they’re visiting places that too many other places have visited before. When we first met him, he almost had a monopoly on the awkward, embarrassing protagonist, but in the years since, the equally cringe-worthy David Brent, Larry Sandars and Larry David have taken the archetype to new levels, making Partridge’s arrival on the big screen feel a little tired.

In many senses, it feels like an overblown, extended episode of an Alan Partridge TV show – perhaps a pilot episode for a new series. Fans of the long-running character will be thoroughly entertained throughout, seeing a handful of familiar characters reappear in minor roles, but with much of the comedy coming from knowing Partridge intimately, it’s unlikely to win over many new fans among audiences less familiar with this unique character, whose comic craving for celebrity has, in many senses, now looks less extreme, as a result of two decades of reality TV.

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