After North Norfolk Digital is bought over by a huge media conglomerate, old-fashioned DJ Pat Farrell (Meaney) is sacked as part of the re-branding process. Taking the news badly, Pat returns to the station with a shotgun and ends up taking all the employees hostage. As the situation escalates into a full-blown siege, Pat demands that fellow veteran DJ Alan Partridge (Coogan) be brought in as mediator…
Following more than a decade of speculation about the possibility of an Alan Partridge movie, the Norfolk-based King Of Chat has finally ambled his way onto the big-screen. Given that he’s been putting the chat among the pigeons for over twenty years now, the prospect of Alan letting battle commence in cinemas was met with both feverish expectation and understandable apprehension. As such, it’s a pleasure to report that Alpha Papa is a largely successful – if not quite triumphant – multiplex translation that delivers the sort of film Partridge fans were hoping for.
Admittedly, there’s little here to convert non-fans, but the loyalists are in for a ruddy treat. In large part, this is due to the fact that Steve Coogan and his co-writers (which includes co-creator Armando Iannucci, recent character curators Rob and Neil Gibbons, and longtime scribe Peter Baynham) are clearly aware of the potential pitfalls. Keeping the story ‘small’ and parochial, they wisely decide against having Alan attempt to crack America, knowing that the key is simply to let the former Toblerone addict do his thing in an appropriate setting. Placing him in an siege situation – complete with accompanying media frenzy – the result is a perfect storm of Norfolk and Hollywood. Dog Day Alan-Noon, if you will. Or, The Taking Of Partridge One Two Three.
In terms of laughs, some of the cringe comedy feels a touch dated, and a few gags belong in a lesser film (most notably, the shit-filled lunchbox). But Partridge-related humour has always been the sort of comedy that, to a certain extent, gets funnier with repeated viewings, and you get the feeling the same will be true of Alpha Papa. Complemented by some perfect soundtrack choices – including Roachford’s Cuddly Toy and John Farnham’s You’re The Voice – there are plenty of great moments and a tonne of quotable lines that are destined to enter the Partridge lexicon. His liquid radio chat, meanwhile, remains as glorious as ever.
It could be argued that Alan is slightly more grounded than previous, but Coogan and co stay absolutely true to the Chap Of Steel’s character. Happily, he isn’t given an ill-judged redemptive arc or a misplaced heroic transformation, while the aforementioned creatives correctly realise that there’s no need to fall back on existing catchphrases. After all, the fun thing about Alan Partridge is simply spending time with him, whether he’s veering off onto one of his many trademark digressions or offering up another unnecessarily-detailed aside. Elsewhere, Colm Meaney gets the balance between threatening and vulnerable just right, while there are welcome appearances from Felicity Montagu (as Alan’s long-suffering PA) and Simon Greenall (as his dim-witted Geordie pal).
A largely successful – if not quite triumphant – multiplex translation, Alpha Papa delivers the sort of film Partridge fans were hoping for. Back of the cinematic net.