movie film review | chris tookey

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

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  Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.57 /10
Steve Coogan , Colm Meaney , Felicity Montagu
Full Cast >

Directed by: Declan Lowney
Written by: Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons

Released: 2013
Origin: UK
Colour: C
Length: 90

A-ha! Itís funny!
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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One of many odd things about Norfolk is that you donít pass through it to get anywhere. If youíre there, itís because you want to be Ė or, in the case of Alan Partridge, because itís the end of the road. The showdown at the climax of this movie, a distorted echo of a previous denouement in Falling Down, takes place on Cromer Pier. Next stop is the Arctic Circle, or possibly death.

Alan Partridge (pictured) is an inspired comic creation: initially a sports presenter, briefly a live TV chat show host until he accidentally shot a guest, now a catastrophically inept Radio DJ. More than 20 years after he first appeared, heís surfaced in a British comedy film that is actually funny.

Partridge is Norfolk Digital Radioís most tactless DJ Ė he introduces a Neil Diamond track with the sublimely inappropriate ďYou can keep Jesus; as far as Iím concerned, Neil Diamond will always be king of the Jews.Ē

Alan is happily conducting his idea of a topical phone-in (ďWhich kind of monger is the worst? Iron? Fish? Rumour? War?Ē) with his barely sentient sidekick Simon (Tim Key) when his station is the victim of a corporate takeover by a bunch of unfeeling yobs who care for nothing above the bottom line.

So, like any rat determined to stay on a sinking ship, Alan sells out a colleague, Irishman Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), a graveyard-slot presenter with a taste for cosy country and western.

As a result, a vengeful, not terribly relaxed Pat turns up at the launch party of the new radio station with a shotgun. A siege develops, and Alan is the only person the decent, naive and almost certainly mad Pat trusts to mediate between him and the police.

Through news bulletins and YouTube, Alan becomes a media personality once again, which allows his outsize ego to bloom like some long-dormant, malodorous cactus flower, though heís dimly aware that the crazed gunman who likes him may be less than impressed if he finds out that Alan got him sacked.

Some of the best comic talents in this country have combined to make this deliciously weird piece of cinema. Alan Partridge in an action thriller is as refreshingly bizarre as Nigel Farage would be, starring in Dog Day Afternoon.

The film-makers have resisted the temptation to ďopen outĒ Partridge and take him to foreign lands. Rightly so.

The point about Partridge is that heís a fish out of water even on home ground. He has acquired a comic pathos through his chronic inability to learn, his uncontrollable impulse to say the wrong thing at the incredibly wrong time, his rampant, old-mannish egotism coupled with childish petulance that no one takes him even half as seriously as he takes himself.

He also sees himself as the embodiment of Middle England, as opposed to a national embarrassment.

His saving grace is that there is lurking within him a cracked moral compass, an awareness that political correctness may have some basis in modern reality.

Director Declan Lowney (Father Ted) has bravely resisted the temptation to make the film look good. The lighting is muddy, the shooting-style haphazard. It takes us back to the low-grade production values of Confessions of a Window Cleaner.

With some directors that would be because heís incapable of better, but Lowney does it because he realises Alan Partridge is the quintessence of anti-glamour, the last person in the world you would want as the hero of a Hollywood action movie.

Likewise, cinematographer Ben Smithard deliberately goes in the opposite direction of his work on Cranford and My Week With Marilyn. Thereís no period nostalgia here; this is England at its most defiantly naff, a strange, perverse land where James May and Alan Titchmarsh can become sex symbols, and the wrong brother can deliberately be elected to lead a political party.

Most movies with five writers are shambolic. So is this, but in a good way. Armando Ianucci, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Peter Baynham and Coogan himself deliver dialogue thatís staggeringly inappropriate in a thriller, frequently hilarious and always in character.

The film isnít perfect. Partridge is essentially a sitcom character, which means thereís no hope of a redemptive arc, no chance of him ever escaping his limitations. I canít imagine this film finding much of an audience abroad, where they tend not to take hopeless losers to their hearts.

But after a few years when Coogan himself has seemed to be losing his sense of humour, both personally and professionally, itís good to see him embrace the character for which he will forever be remembered.

This is not a great film visually, and some people Ė especially the Alan Partridges of this world - will be baffled as to why anyone would find it even slightly humorous, but itís among the funniest entertainments Iíve enjoyed this year.

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