From On The Hour (1991) to I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan (2011), Steve Coogan and co. have nurtured one of the most authentic and downright hilarious comedy characters of our time. Testament to the fact, I’ve seen complete strangers bond over the drunken shouting of “smell my cheese!” and “Twat! That was liquid football!” With such a faultless back catalogue I was pretty terrified that this, Partridge’s first movie outing, would fall short. But I was wrong. It’s classic intercourse. (Cashback!)
We join Alan in what seems to be a period of stability; he’s still hosting Mid Morning Matters with Sidekick Simon (Tim Key), using this time to answer the Big Questions like “Who’s the worst ‘monger: fish, iron, rumour of war?” But change is afoot: his radio station, North-Norfolk Digital, is about to be bought out and re-branded, leaving Alan’s more mature presenting style as potential deadwood. Partridge, ever the egoist, persuades the corporates to instead sack late-night host Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). Heartbroken and bitter, Farrell takes the entire staff hostage and refuses to negotiate with anyone except Alan, who becomes the police’s chief mediator.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa has been in the pipeline for just under ten years now, but thankfully it doesn’t feel like a drawn-out project at all. The plot is strong, the acting is great (the supporting cast features Anna Maxwell Martin and Sean Pertwee), and the jokes are delivered with all the quick-fire brilliance we’ve come to expect from Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham. Declan Lowney’s direction is spot-on, too, with the grandiose opening shots of Norfolk’s coast getting the first laughs of the night.
And that’s the real success of Alpha Papa: it is hilarious from start to finish. Whether it’s the corporate mugs, radio jingles, set-piece one liners or the relentless physical comedy, there’s always something to guarantee at least a chuckle. Even for people who’ve never seen Partridge, the film is accessible enough and a stellar example of how to translate comedy from TV to the cinema. Arrested Development, take note.
Seasoned Partridge faces like manager Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and Michael “the Geordie” (Simon Greenall) return but don’t really get their time to shine like they did in the TV series. Michael’s depressing haplessness is still a joy to watch, and the film would perhaps have benefited from making him seem more human and less like a caricature. Also, I think for some people the plot might drag nearer the end; while the story works well, the film is at its best when Alan is being Alan, driving his car and miming to Roachford’s Cuddly Toy, and stopping only to tell someone to turn their fog lamps off.
Don’t be fooled by the trailers that make it look a bit Cooking In Prisons, Alpha Papa is a joy to watch and saves its best jokes for the film itself. Lovely stuff – not my words, the words of Shakin’ Stevens.