Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

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"He's got a shooter!"
“He’s got a shooter!”

Twitter Plot Summary: When older DJ Pat Farrell is given the boot by new station owners, Alan Partridge inadvertently becomes the lead negotiator when Pat takes them hostage.

Genre: Comedy

Director: Declan Lowney

Key Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Sean Pertwee, Anna Maxwell Martin, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall, Monica Dolan, Nigel Lindsay, Phil Cornwell, Tim Key, Darren Boyd.

Five Point Summary:

1. Alan miming in the car. Brilliant.
2. Yeah, Lynn’s back! I wonder if she’s still earning £9,500 as Alan’s PA?
3. Colm Meaney looks like he’s been in Partridge land for years. Good.
4.  Michael’s lunch box. A gag that will never grow old.
5. A blast from the past gets a tour around Norwich.

I’ve been an Alan Partridge fan since I caught episode 5 of I’m Alan Partridge on TV in 1997, the episode where Alan meets “super fan” Jed Maxwell and, having discovered that Jed spent 14 hours having a tattoo of Alan’s face etched onto his chest, makes his getaway across a big field. Since then I’ve been a devotee of not just anything Alan Partridge related, but just about everything Steve Coogan has ever done. Mostly because every other performance seems to have echoes of Alan Partridge about them, I think.

There’s a proper story to see us through the ensuing 90 minutes. Alan (Coogan) is still working for North Norfolk Digital (last seen in Mid Morning Matters) alongside Sidekick Simon. The station is in the process of being taken over by a new faceless conglomerate of executives and morphed into Shape – “the way you want it to be”. When stalwart DJ Pat Farrell (Meaney) is sacked, with some background assistance from Alan of course, he snaps and returns to the building with a shotgun and holds the station hostage. Thinking that Alan has always been in his corner, Pat states that he will only negotiate with Alan. And so, in what is likely the culmination of years of wish fulfillment, Alan gets to work with the police and at the same time attempt to raise his national profile to Knowing Me, Knowing You era levels, and possibly beyond. This is aided by Pat insisting he and Alan broadcast live throughout the siege, which Alan throws himself into with egotistical abandon (“Enjoy me Lynn, everyone else is!”).

As nods to Alan’s past it was nice to see Dave Clifton get so much screen time as he waxes lyrical about his years of substance abuse and subsequent depression. Sidekick Simon gets a significant amount of screen time as one of the hostages. If you’ve seen the trailer then you’ll know he has a rather interesting look forced upon him, for reasons that will become clear when you watch the film.

I love the approach taken regarding the gags – there’s some subtle ones (take a look at the reflection in Alan’s spectacles when he’s talking about the reintroduction of ospreys to the United Kingdom), then there’s the full-on Alan-isms (such as comparing a touching burial at sea to that of Bin Laden). Then there’s some surprising toilet humour that works its way in. It does fit with the tone of the film, but would have perhaps fallen flat on its face had it turned up in one of the more concise TV episodes.

Michael's lunch box. You don't want to know what's in it.
Michael’s lunch box. You don’t want to know what’s in it.

The soundtrack is classic Alan, ranging from an excellent in-car singing session to Roachford’s Cuddly Toy, to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Police cropping up on North Norfolk Digital’s radio playlist. The CD soundtrack even has some “classic” Partridge tunes thrown in for good measure (how does Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger and Hot Chocolate’s It Started With A Kiss work for you?), so it comes highly recommended even if it’s missing Willie Nelson’s You Were Always On My Mind, which is integral to the film. Shame that, but we’re subject to that many crazy licensing issues these days it’s an unfortunate reality of modern media.

There’s a surprising amount of heart to the film as well, specifically from Alan and Pat. In Alan’s case it’s his love-hate-hate relationship with tireless PA Lynn (Montagu), which was always a highlight of the TV series. There’s something bubbling under the surface there between them, but with an unspoken acceptance that it will never proceed beyond what they have. Alan does have a little arc of his own, but to go into any detail might constitute spoilers. Rest assured that he doesn’t become a completely different person by the closing credits, he’s still “our” Alan. On the other side is Pat and his sadness regarding the death of his wife some years previously. It doesn’t step too deeply into the maudlin side of things – this is an Alan Partridge story, after all – but despite us having never met Pat before he’s a fully rounded character with a touching history that explains to some extent why he reacts the way he does. And it’s just not because he’s Irish.

I would have absolutely loved to give the film a full 5/5, however it falls short of the hallowed perfect score for a few reasons. Whilst it’s an incredibly funny film which I’m sure will only get funnier after repeat viewings, the laughs are more generously paced than you get in an episode of I’m Alan Partridge or Mid Morning Matters. This is a shame because there’s always scope for more laughs, be they foreground, background or somewhere in the middle distance. There’s also a few instances where the story loses some of its impetus briefly, and old Partridge stalwart Michael is rather underused – perhaps for the better given how limited his character actually is. An extra scene where he and Alan discuss something completely banal would have at least improved things on this front.

Whilst it doesn’t hit the heights of Partridge’s TV outings, it’s still a thoroughly good film and doesn’t suffer from the usual “TV to big screen” conversion issues that are frequently experienced. There’s plenty of scope for Alan to proceed from here, let’s just hope Coogan et al don’t rush into it. Given how infrequent new Partridge material is, I think we’re in safe hands.

Favourite scene: Alan’s daydream involving the three Jason’s. I will say no more and let you experience it for yourself. Hilarious.

Quote: “A lot of people think it looks like a photograph of an explosion.”

Silly Moment: *Minor spoiler* Alan falls out of a window and loses his trousers.

Score: 4/5

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