out of Five
Running time: 90
Alan Partridge makes a successful transition to the big screen in this hugely enjoyable comedy, thanks to impressive direction, superb comic performances and a witty script that stays true to the character throughout.
What's it all about?
Directed by Declan Lowney, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa begins with Alan (Steve Coogan) happily ensconced in his position as a radio DJ at North Norfolk Digital, along with his sidekick, Sidekick Simon (Tim Key). When North Norfolk Digital is sold to a media corporation and rebranded Shape, Alan persuades his new bosses to sack veteran DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) in order to save his job, after catching sight of a memo that reads ‘Sack Pat or Alan’.
However, after Pat is sacked, he goes off the deep end and lays siege to the radio station during the Shape launch party, taking several hostages and refusing to negotiate with anyone except Alan, believing him to be his only friend at the station. When the police (Anna Maxwell Martin, Darren Boyd and Sean Pertwee) draft in Alan (codename: ‘Alpha Papa’) as a negotiator, he gradually realises that he can use the situation to boost his media profile.
Transferring a small screen comedy success to the big screen is a notoriously tricky prospect, so it comes as something as a relief to discover that the writers of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (including Coogan and regular Partridge writers Peter Baynham, Armando Iannucci and Rob and Neil Gibbons) have ensured that the script stays true to the character throughout, even if he does look a little more quote-unquote ‘movie-friendly’ in the hair and make-up department. To that end, the frequently hilarious script is packed with quotable lines and maintains an effective balance of both physical and verbal comedy.
Coogan probably does Partridge in his sleep at this point, but it's to his credit that he and his writing team can still manage to surprise us and keep the character fresh, while never losing sight of his essential Partridge-ness. There's also terrific support from Colm Meaney, who brings genuine emotional weight to what could have been a very one-note part – his interactions with Partridge are surprisingly moving.
On top of that, there's a superb comic cast that includes Partridge regulars Tim Key, Felicity Montagu (as Alan's long-suffering assistant Lynn), Simon Greenall (as Geordie Michael) and Phil Cornwell (as rival DJ Dave Clifton), though several other characters, such as sort-of love interest Angela (Monica Dolan) and the police officers are all rather underused.
As you'd expect from the director of TV's Father Ted, Declan Lowney displays an impeccable sense of comic timing throughout and orchestrates some wonderful comic highlights, whether it's Alan lip-synching to Roachford's Cuddly Toy on his drive to work, discussing which famous siege was the best with the police or negotiating with the new Shape bosses over keeping his job.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a superbly written, brilliantly acted and laugh-out-loud funny comedy that stays true to the character and is worthy of a place beside the likes of I'm Alan Partridge and Knowing Me, Knowing You. Highly recommended.