Co-writer, co-producer, and star Steve Coogan brings his beloved character back for another chapter in the ongoing saga of media personality Alan Partridge in Alan Partridge (the US title, as opposed to the original UK title Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa—though it could’ve been called Alan Partridge: Siege Face). A satire on fame, selling out, corporate takeover, and media, but, above all else, one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Tremendously intelligent, very hard to predict, pleasantly surprising, biting, witty…there were times when the comedy was firing so relentlessly on all cylinders that I could hardly handle the rapid fire attack on my funny bone.
Gordale Media—a big corporate conglomerate—has taken over a small town radio station in North Norfolk. The unfashionable, aging Alan Partridge is one of the DJ’s whose job is at risk as a result of this takeover. Partridge convinces the new owners to “Just Sack Pat” Farrell (Colm Meaney) instead of him, who later comes back with a shotgun and a vendetta. Farrell takes over the radio station, creating a hostage situation in which Partridge is the only person he’ll communicate with, thus making him the unlikely hostage negotiator. What follows is a fast-paced, dazzling blend of danger, tension, brilliant one-liners, and surprising story turns. Imagine Dog Day Afternoon with a comic genius at the center—playing, for those who don’t yet know, essentially David Brent meets Larry Sanders (even though Partridge predates both of those characters)—and you get a good idea of what Alan Partridge is like.
This is the long-awaited big screen debut of Coogan’s longtime character, who’s “career” spent years on TV, the radio, a fake autobiography, and most recently a web series. This film is my favorite incarnation of him to date, and really feels like the classic that many were wanting it to be—that “many”, of course, being the cult following this character has gathered over the years. This is a great introduction to the character that will lead plenty of people to explore the past Partridge projects with great interest. Also, it must be noted, your prior experience with Alan Partridge is not an important factor for enjoying this film: it works entirely fine without having any prior awareness of the character whatsoever.
The film is extremely well-written—the legitimate threat of the scenario provides a perfect undertone for the comedy relief of the overall material, making everything feel fresh and immediate—there’s almost no wasted word, moment, or opportunity in the whole piece. This successful tonal consistency and rapid pace was aided by a director (Declan Lowney) tolerant of Coogan and co’s apparently chaotic production process—and yet the movie is far from a mess. It even delivers on the tension and action in a surprisingly strong way, occasionally seeming like a legitimate Hollywood cop drama, but maintaining an indie, free-spirited free-flow of ideas at all times. It doesn’t play like an adaptation of a television character one bit, it plays like a legitimate movie. It looks great, it’s well-acted, it doesn’t wear out its welcome, it’s never boring, and it’s just human enough to be engaging on multiple levels. It’s full of so many small laughs—in details, lines, mannerisms, etc—that it’s destined to reward repeated viewings.
The DVD/Blu-Ray includes about fifteen minutes worth of features that provide various insights into the production of the film, and though those features are good enough, it would have been helpful to include a documentary about the history of Alan Partridge. That, along with the film, would have provided a great starting place for new comers, and a reference point by which the viewers could use to explore further.
Alan Partridge is now available on DVD/Blu-Ray through Magnolia Home Entertainment