Featuring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Sean Pertwee, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall, Tim Key
Director: Declan Lowney
Writers: Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci
Australian release date: Now showing, Luna-Palace (Perth)
Verdict: I promise you will laugh
Steve Coogan’s famous local radio DJ/one time talk show host Alan Partridge is one of the UK’s most-loved comedy characters. In this unmissable British comedy, Alan’s radio station, North Norfolk Digital, is taken over by a new media conglomerate. This sets in motion a hilarious chain of events that necessitates Alan working with the police to defuse a potentially violent siege.
The British are familiar with the character of Alan Partridge, a fictional radio and television personality created by Steve Coogan, but I had never heard of him, and thought the blurb for the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa looked decidedly unpromising. But I’m glad I took a chance on it. It’s really funny!
The comedy is character based, and the Partridge character is a rich vein to mine. Australians will be reminded of Norman Gunston, our own cringeworthy wannabe media star of old. Partridge is less bloodied but equally gormless – because of his monumental self-centredness – about the needs of the people around him. He’s a big fish in the small pond of the radio station, an eccentric whose whims have been indulged for too long. He’s an insufferable bully both to his meek sidekick and his motherly assistant, and he has no clue that his sweet, plain colleague Angela, who has a big crush on him, is the single mother of teenaged sons, nor does he recognise her swiftly clever wit.
Coogan pulls off all manner of funniness here. There’s wordplay, fantasy, slapstick and pratfalls, and one of the most hilariously excruciating scenes involving lost trousers and a roving pap(arazzo) that you are likely to encounter; and if some of the jokes are predictable, their execution is so good that you’re delighted to laugh anyway. There’s also much silliness of the Flying High variety: always a plus. And, oh yes, toilet humour: some really funny shit.
The plot – whereby a massively disgruntled ex-employee of the newly-taken-over radio station besieges it and insists that he will only negotiate with his trusted colleague Alan – maintains momentum and thrusts Partridge into situations where his mettle is tested. As you might imagine, he’s revealed to be sadly and touchingly pusillanimous. The comic character who has all our small weaknesses writ large is a common one. We laugh because we recognise those weaknesses as our own, and we forgive him because there’s a tiny promise of redemption glimpsed amongst the blathering bravado of the clown performing as the star of his own drama. Partridge resists that redemption until it’s completely unavoidable. He’d love to be really brave – wouldn’t we all! – but he’s just too damn scared.
It’s a refreshing hoot, this one. Do yourself a favour.
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