By Richard Haridy
February 11, 2014
Steve Coogan has been playing his hilariously egotistical Alan Partridge character for over 20 years across numerous platforms, from TV chat shows to mock travel documentaries to an internet radio series. It’s surprising that the multi-faceted character has never made the jump to film before now but Coogan and his co-creator Armando Iannucci (The Thick Of It, In The Loop) have seemingly been biding their time, collecting killer jokes and saving them up for one big, gag-filled feature.
Alpha Papa finds Alan Partridge working for a small town digital radio station doing a morning show with his sidekick Simon (the hilarious Tim Key). In a plot line amusingly reminiscent of the classic comedy Airheads, the network is taken over by a larger corporation and staff redundancies are on the cards. When Alan’s work friend Pat (Colm Meaney) is fired, Pat decides to pick up a shotgun and take the station hostage in protest. He also demands that Alan be the only person he negotiate with.
This is a cleverly calibrated big-screen leap for a character most of us will be very familiar with. Rather than expand the narrative to an extreme scale designed to justify a feature-length treatment, Coogan and his team surprisingly keep the movie quite tight and intimate. Concentrating on loading the flick with laughs, Alpha Papa is unexpectedly modest but consistently hilarious.
Meaney is a wonderful addition to the world of Partridge as the eternally put-upon Pat, bringing a lovely straight man banter to his interactions with Coogan, and the expansion of Key’s character from the Mid Morning Matters web series is very welcome. TV director Declan Lowney does a competent job in adjusting to a satisfying wide-screen aesthetic. His coverage is mostly perfunctory but several odd set pieces do elevate the picture, particularly one “chase scene” set to John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ that is easily one of the comic highlights of the year.
Unlike almost all other English TV comedy adaptations (Bean, Guest House Paradiso, The Inbetweeners) Alpha Papa fulfils the comedic promise of a much loved icon and results in one of the funniest films of the past twelve months.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa will be available on Quickflix from February 13, 2014.