Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review


Written by Fin Murphy
14 Wednesday 14th August 2013

 To compound a potentially difficult crossover, the production of Alpha Papa has been somewhat troubled. Mooted for over eight years, with lead Steve Coogan pursuing blockbuster roles and other television programmes for the duration, suggested that Alan Partridge on the big screen would be as much of a pipe dream as his second series. However, with the rebirth of Partridge through YouTube series Mid-Morning Matters, plus one off specials, it seemed that there was still a future for the character- with a more than willing audience.


Alpha Papa begins where Mid-Morning Matters left off. Partridge is in a rare period of stability. He lives in a fully built house, drives a car painted with his name (as opposed to 'Cook Pass Babtridge'), and presents a 10AM-2PM local radio show with the ever-droll Sidekick Simon (Tim Key). This all changes when North Norfolk Digital is taken over by big shot businessman Jason Cresswell (Nigel Lindsay), who aims to revamp it into the youth-oriented Shape Digital. In doing so, Alan's involved in the firing of friend and longtime DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), who holds hostages at the station until his demands are met. However, amongst the chaos, it isn't long before Alan spots an opportunity for a new career break.



The film succeeds on a number of levels. In plot terms, it begins much like classic Partridge – radio show, chatting with Lynn (Felicity Montagu), a glimpse of Michael (Simon Greenall)– before departing into much more cinematic territory. This is reflected in the prevalence of what Alan would call 'nice action,' whether its Alan's chase from Pat or the involvement of an armed force unit, led by a grizzled Sean Pertwee.


Director Declan Lowney has successfully managed to capture the scope of the setting; the beauty and bleakness of Norfolk, from the worn in radio station, the pallid Cromer Pier at dark water, to the eerily quiet city centre. Furthermore, Lowney's camerawork is instrumental in bringing to life a number of gags, be it Alan getting debagged or the bullet-blasted ending. Some aspects of the plot, like Alan's unsubtle ties to the police and the pacing of the second half, can jar, but aren't enough to detract from the overall experience.



However, all merits would be a sideline if it weren't for the wealth of characterisation displayed. Lynn returns as grimly utilitarian as ever, but shows both her vanity and her great care of Alan as the film progresses. Michael returns on scene stealing form, as disturbed as ever, best shown in his inexplicable parting. Colm Meaney establishes Pat Farrell brilliantly as a complicated figure, veering between grief over the loss of his career, camaraderie towards Alan and sheer violent rage. Last but not least, Alan Partridge.


At this age, he's calmed down; a shadow of the narcissist from Knowing Me, Knowing You, less pathetic than series 1 of I'm Alan Partridge, more subtle than series 2 of the same programme. Nonetheless, there still remains that intangible air of Partridge which so pervades our national psyche, prevalent in some of the best lines spoken throughout- “You're like a big Geordie Anne Frank,” being a real highlight.


Running at an hour and a half long, the film is well balanced and satisfying, featuring enough built up moments and laugh out loud gags to cater to any Partridge, or indeed comedy, fan. It brings the James Bond, Toblerone and Rover enthusiast back with a purpose, at last the hero he's so long sought to be, master of his domain. The question now is: after twenty or so years, will anyone – comedy fans, Steve Coogan, the BBC – ever really want to let one of the finest formed British comedy characters go?  


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