Undoubtedly Steve Coogan’s most famous comic creation, Alan Partridge is still a massively polarizing character for UK audiences. A recent poll found that 40% of British adults don’t see what the fuss is about, but his antics appeal to a younger (18 to 24 year olds) audience. Personally, I see Partridge as a British comedic icon, and a big screen outing for him was long overdue. Whilst it’s still a largely humorous affair, it’s certainly not the same Alan that graced our screens over a decade ago.
When the station is taken over by a media conglomerate who have plans to fire the veteran staff in favour of attracting younger listeners, Partridge takes drastic action and interrupts the discussions. Here, he learns that his position is in jeopardy, along with fellow DJ Pat Farrell. Being the selfish man that he is, Partridge ‘suggests’ that they sack Pat, leading to a series of events that sees Farrell take hostages inside the building. It’s up to Alan to defuse the situation, and become the hero he always knew he was.
The first noticeable aspect is that Coogan doesn’t particularly look like Partridge anymore, and it’s all down to one thing: the hair. It’s distracting for a few moments, but the rapid fire succession of jokes and ‘Alanisms’ quickly dismiss it from the mind. Opening much like the majority of the episodes do, with Alan at work as a DJ, long time fans will love seeing him on the big screen. But herein lies part of the problem: the comedy feels toned down to cater for a wider audience. It’s a logical step; after all, the whole point of films are to make a profit, but if any character deserves to stay true to their identity, it’s Partridge. That’s not to say he’s a completely different being – there’s more than enough content here to satisfy those familiar with Norfolk’s favourite son before he made it big. But there’s a large number of jokes and visual gags that feel out of place for this particular creation; one scene that drew the biggest laugh also seemed like it belonged more in an American Pie instalment than here.
All the major players from the series are here – Lynn, Alan’s long suffering PA gets considerable screen time and the chemistry between the two hasn’t skipped a beat in the time they’ve been off our screens. DJ Dave Clifton is also here, but I feel a lot of his lines didn’t strike the intended chord. Finally, it’s an absolute joy to see Michael the porter/BP cashier/Alan’s only friend. Unfortunately, he’s criminally underused but the scenes he does appear in are comedy gold. Colin Meaney is fantastic as the deranged Pat Farrell, but puts enough emotion in to make you feel sympathetic for his cause.
With most of the action taking place inside the studio, it’s not just the hostages feeling a bit of cabin fever – being stuck in the same location eventually gives the impression that the story isn’t going anywhere, and it admittedly becomes tedious to see the same four walls. It eventually spills outside to the surrounding area of Norfolk, and the film is all the better for it.
Feeling more like a continuation to Mid Morning Matters than vintage Partridge, Alpha Papa still has plenty of reasons for fans of the original series to see it.