When North Norfolk Digital radio station is taken over, DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is made redundant in an attempt to reach out to a younger audience. However, Pat doesn’t take kindly to the news and holds a number of people hostage inside the radio station. Fellow DJ, a Mr Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan), is tasked with bringing the situation to a peaceful conclusion.
Alan Partridge fans (of which I am one) have been waiting for this film for a long time. Writers Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci have been talking about an Alan Partridge film for years but only now has it finally materialised, and any fans worried about Norfolk’s finest making the transition to the big screen, leave all your concerns at the door – it’s ruddy bloody brilliant.
Several Partridge familiars are present, including Sidekick Simon (Tim Key), Geordie jack of all trades Michael (Simon Greenall), and of course his long-suffering assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), all of whom do their bit and fit in perfectly to Alan’s self-centered world. However, make no mistake, this is Alan’s film and Steve Coogan’s portrayal of Partridge is as glorious as always. Puffed up and cocky one moment, seemingly on the verge of a mental breakdown the next, Coogan has become synonymous with Partridge, and managing to successfully evolve the character over two decades is quite the feat.
Of course, as important as the characterisation is the writing and Coogan and Iannucci have delivered a script that is full to the brim with quotable lines and memorable moments. Alan asking his radio listeners ‘which is the worst monger?’ (fish, iron, rumour or war?) is just one example of the very specific brand of Partridge humour that is littered throughout the film and that has transferred superbly to the big screen.
Which brings me onto my gripes with the film, of which there are only a couple. See, Alan is at his best when he’s at his most mundane, when he has little going for him. In Alpha Papa he is at his most confident and buoyant, and that simply isn’t quite as funny. Similarly, in shifting from TV to film the situations he finds himself in are much more extreme than we’re used to seeing. Sure, it’s funny to see him with his pants around his ankles ‘tucking himself’ between his legs to avoid photographers, but it’s the smaller moments that have come to define the character – the walking along the motorway singing the theme tune to Goldfinger on his way to purchase 12 bottles of windscreen washer fluid from a petrol station, or simply explaining how inertia-reel seatbelts work.
Naturally, Alpha Papa is a film that is only really going to appeal to a pretty niche audience, one largely based in the UK. Those who aren’t a fan of Alan Partridge will find absolutely nothing here to make them change their mind, but for avid Partridgites it’s a near perfect big screen debut full of moments to make you cringe and full-on belly laugh in equal measure. Lovely stuff.