Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)
I’m always wary of feature-length adaptations of TV shows. Often, the idea of a beloved TV character cutting loose on the big screen is a lot more fun that what actually transpires. It shames me to say it, but British TV shows into films are usually the worst. I mean, Keith Lemon: The Film? That’s the best we as a country can do? Ali G Indahouse wasn’t much better either. The only one I can think of as being a legitimate success is In The Loop. Anyway, the prospect of an Alan Partridge film, one of my favourite comedy characters, had me worried. Who’d have thought that this year I would have been disappointed by Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness, but not Alpha Papa? No need to answer that question, dearies. It’s all rhetorical, innit.
“That was soft rock cocaine enthusiasts Fleetwood Mac…”
When his radio station is taken over by a huge media conglomerate, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) finds himself in a difficult position when newly fired DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) busts back into the building with a shotgun and holds people hostage. Whilst Partridge initially escapes, it turns out that Farrell won’t talk to the police and has specifically requested Alan to head back into the station and become the negotiator. I’m surprised that they were this bold with the concept. With a film like this, I’d have expected it to go two ways. 1) The same basic set-up (corporation wants to take over small, but popular thing) and then have some sort of charity drive/protest to raise the £500,000 they need to save the radio station or whatever or 2) Partridge goes to America and ends up in all sorts of overseas fish-out-of-water, cultural misunderstandings shenanigans. Thankfully, the film doesn’t either of those. It knows that Partridge is at his best outside of his comfort zone and this film is all about taking that to the extreme. Coogan has been playing Partridge for about 20 years now, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s great. Colm Meaney also puts in some fine work as Pat, giving us a bad guy with understandable motives. He’s desperate rather than evil and it’s dealt with a deft touch. Tim Key is also decent as Partridge sidekick Simon. The thing I appreciated most though was the return of mousy browbeaten assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and Geordie pal Michael (Simon Greenall) from the I’m Alan Partridge series. Both get moments that had me beaming out of genuine affection for the characters.
Cards on the table. I laughed a hell of a lot during Alpha Papa. It’s been ages since I laughed so much during a film my face hurt by the end of it. From the inspired opening lip-sync to Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” to a trademark Partridge social faux-pas or twelve, I was giggling like a little schoolgirl. Despite the gag count being high, none of it felt like a betrayal of the character we all know. Alan is still Alan and that’s the highest praise I can give. Despite all the stakes being significantly higher than the intentionally low key TV show, all the little cringeworthy bits and moments of needless pedantry are preserved. Perhaps just as important is the tragic, sympathetic side of Alan and this is wisely kept too. Partridge is a tragic character when it comes down to it. He’s goofy and socially awkward but there’s a real sadness to him that I think has kept him popular for over two decades. There are certainly moments that are unexpectedly touching and it makes the comedy all the greater. Here’s a handy comparison point for you when someone asks the difference between American and British comedy : compare the usage of 80’s empowering cheese classic “You’re the Voice” in this film to its usage in the LOLZ OMG SOOO RANDUM Hot Rod. Fuckin’ worlds apart.
There are a few things that don’t quite work. Some of the dream sequences aren’t particularly brilliant and they kill the pacing. Some of the gags, especially the “turd in a lunchbox” scene feel like they belong in a raunchier, gross-out fest rather than a Partridge feature. These are very minor quibbles though.
“Today we’re asking: what is the worst monger? Iron, fish, rumour… or war?”
Alpha Papa is the funniest comedy I’ve seen in a long damn time. The treacherous transition from the small to the big screen works because they remain true to the character without sacrificing some of the intricacies for laughs from the dumbus plebs out there. It’s textbook Alan.