Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!
All recognisable catchphrases of Steve Coogan’s most famous comic creation, Alan Partridge, and thankfully none of them appear in a film that happily resists the urge to cash in on the characters popularity and give us an Alan’s Greatest Hits collection. It’s also arguably the funniest film of the year.
Partridge is a hapless DJ (or D-Jock) hanging on by the skin of his teeth at North Norfolk Digital after a corporate rebranding that has seen another DJ from the old guard, Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), get the sack. Pat, in a fit of rage, decides to take matters into his own hands and holds the station hostage, and the only person he’ll speak to is Alan Partridge, not knowing that he was the key factor in getting him sacked. Soon the entire town’s media descends upon the station and it’s up to Alan to save the day. And maybe get back on TV while he’s at it.
It’s not the most complicated of plots admittedly, but when the gags are this good and come at you this thick and fast, the plot can take a bit of a backseat without making it feel like an extended sketch show. Coogan and Partridge are almost interchangeable now, and he’s played to perfection as one would expect from an actor who’s spent nearly two decades on and off as the character; the oblivious insensitivity of the character is still just as funny as it was back in the Knowing Me, Knowing You days (Alan asking his listeners who the worst ‘monger’ is –‘fish, iron, rumour or war’) and his ability to say the wrong thing at exactly the wrong moment is as perfect as ever – such as a cracking Bin Laden joke. The bigger scale that comes with big screen adaptations certainly hasn’t diluted the essence of Partridge.
Surrounding Coogan are a variety of old and new faces collected from the many different mediums Partridge has appeared in (Lynn and Michael from I’m Alan Partridge, Sidekick Simon from Mid Morning Matters) and each gets a moment to shine, most obviously Meaney as Pat Farrell who as well as being the antagonist of the piece also provides the film with a good deal of pathos.
Wisely the film doesn’t take the route that a lot of TV to film adaptations in the past have and go bigger; Alpha Papa keeps things very much on Alan’s home turf. And it’s all the better for it. Partridge should always be a slightly pathetic character and making him the hero in his own little world is the film’s real masterstroke, and taps in to what always made Alan a character you want to route for, despite his many many failings. There are only a few instances where the film goes the more “traditional” action film route, but they’re almost always beautifully undercut with a trademark Partridgism or an unexpected surprise. Jason Argonaut, indeed.
Coming in at a tight 90 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and despite a slight lull in the third act as we reach the conclusion, the energy is kept up for most of the running time. Director Declan Lowney keeps the film zipping along and makes the most mundane of locations (we’re in the radio station for the bulk of the film) look almost cinematic, and there are some cracking music choices thrown in there as well, that are all quintessentially Partridge.
While it may just be a longer, glossier TV episode it’s a hugely successful first (and probably only) cinematic outing for the Norwich born and bred DJ, and it proves that Partridge is that most versatile of creations; one that works in all mediums and still retains what makes him so hilarious.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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