Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)
Knowing Me Minty’s Menagerie, knowing you Gentle Reader A-Ha (Pauses, cocks ear). Actually that hasn’t been uttered by the world champion of chat since the controversial final episode of Alan Partridge’s unseemly axed TV show, not surprising really as beset by a whirlwind of sexual scandal’s the BBC couldn’t really keep an accidental murderer on the pay-roll now could they? I’ve been a massive fan of Partridge ever since his Radio 4 induction, although his career has ebbed and flowed through a handful of small screen escapades the writing has been consistently brilliant, with Steve Coogan’s portrayal of the titular buffoon never swerving from the path of unrestrained hilarity. Even a decant to the isles of Sky maintained the quality, even if idealistic snobs such as myself couldn’t quite shake the disappointment of Coogan, an outspoken critic and champion of press regulation during the maelstrom of the News International scandal couldn’t quite uphold his principles and not get into bed with a Murdoch owned broadcast company – and don’t get me started on partridge co-creator Armando Iannucci accepting a OBE last year. But this isn’t a political soapbox – well not that often – and we’re here to review the comedy fans eagerly awaited transition to the big screen, it’s always a tricky proposition to translate and expand a half hour small screen character out to the widescreen environs of the cinema, although Iannucci managed a superb job in taking the ethos of his political punditry of The Thick Of It into the transatlantic satire of In The Loop Alan has always felt like quite a parochial character, stuffed full as he is with specifically British observational comedy and cultural references, but for the most part this is a riotous 90 minutes of tensile farcical hilarity – stick that in your chat and smoke it.
There’s a big shake up hovering over North Norfolk Digital, as a new media conglomerate has recently acquired the station and is looking to update its rather quaint, East Anglian attitude. Jingles are expelled, urban friendly logos are commissioned, and the playlist amended from Dad-Rock to post-punk in a profit driven effort to attract a younger, hipper audience share. Realising that the new management team are looking to shake-up the talent roster avuncular Alan Partridge (Coogan) discovers that the axe will fall on either him or his colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meany), so in a desperate fumble Partridge manages to escape the P45 delivery whilst Farrell receives his marching orders. During the station re-launch the disgruntled redundancy returns to the building armed with a shotgun and proceeds to establish an amiable hostage scenario, demanding that only his ‘true’ friend Alan can operate as a surrogate negotiator between the weapon sporting loon and the increasingly befuddled police. Initially resistant Alan begins to enjoy his newly restored tabloid and 24hr news cycle fame, and he slowly begins to use the opportunity to build a triumphant return as the King of All Chat….
After In The Loop and Four Lions we are three for three with Alpha Papa, the three best UK sourced comedies of recent years. Alongside Coogan and Iannucci writer Peter Baynam and producer Henry Normal are back and they Alan inside and out, taking the attention to craft a mild character arc for a rather softer and more gregarious Alan, he’s less the Daily Heil parroting Tory twat of yesteryear than a mildly befuddled middle-aged Buffon, still harbouring the same inappropriate prejudices and turns of phrase, but they emerge more from a place of ignorance than genuine hostility. There’s always a temptation to ‘go-large’ when transitioning to the big-screen by imposing character shattering developments on the lead players, the team mostly evade these clichés and keep the tone brisk and playful, by keeping the farce restrained to the single location and rarely widening out to the repercussions throughout the country at large the script stays focused, pushing the comedic possibilities into constantly revitalising waters. Heck, they even has the temerity to have a sly dig at pretentious prattlers who review films in one hilariously orchestrated moment, you know the sort, those pretentious bloggers who are constantly twittering on about ‘angles’ and ‘three-act structures’ – Well Alan, (pauses, raises eyebrow) I think you’ll find it’s compositions, not angles (taps nose sarcastically…)
Passionate followers of Partridge will rejoice in seeing many of the old gang back again, the dourly mousey Lynn (Felicity Montague) gets a supporting part and the incomprehensible Geordie Michael (Simon Greenall) also makes an appearance, even if they don’t get many great lines or scenes the latter at least gets one perfect pratfall moment during the sea-swept finale, It sags slightly in the middle but Iannucci quite specifically cut to the film to a pitch-perfect 90 minutes – any longer than that is rarely good for a comedy film – and any suggestions of bloat or padding are quietly obliterated in the tightly reigned final showdown. But I guess all this talk of pace and structure is a little redundant isn’t it? What you really want to know is if its funny and I can comprehensively certify this as hilarious, my fellow patrons were roaring with laughter at certain points and as you’d expect from a team of this calibre there is also a light peppering of in-jokes and quietly observational asides which will inspire repeat viewings. So that’s that, like the film I won’t outstay my welcome, essential for UK comedy fans and buoyant for passing punters Alpha Papa is a babbling treat;