By Marty Mulrooney
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a British comedy directed by Declan Lowney. The film stars comedian Steve Coogan, reprising his role as fictional radio and television presenter Alan Partridge in the character’s first feature film outing. When the staff of Norwich radio station North Norfolk Digital are taken hostage by DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), Alan must save his colleagues – and the day – by working with the police as a hostage negotiator, with mixed results…
Alpha Papa begins with an opening credits sequence that sets the tone perfectly. Alan, driving his mid-range Kia in tan brown leather driving gloves, mouths the words to Roachford’s 1988 hit ‘Cuddly Toy’ with an overdrive of enthusiasm, pausing only momentarily during an instrumental section to shout at a passing driver that their fog lamps are on. (Editor’s Note: This is one of my favourite songs – when it comes to singing along to Cuddly Toy like an idiot while driving, I’m guilty as charged!)
The main plot revolves around the rebranding of North Norfolk Digital to ‘Shape’ radio after being bought out by a multinational conglomerate. One DJ must go – and Alan makes damn sure it isn’t him by writing JUST SACK PAT on a flip chart after gate-crashing a management meeting. Unaware that Alan was the person that actually got him sacked, Pat gathers his things into a cardboard box, says his goodbyes, and leaves the station.
He doesn’t leave for long. Later that evening, the new owners host a party to celebrate their takeover and the rebrand. While Alan is outside chatting to Lynn (the wonderful Felicity Montagu reprises her role as Alan’s kindly and well-meaning assistant), Pat storms the radio station with a shotgun and takes everyone hostage. After fleeing like a coward and reporting to the nearest police station, Alan is recruited as a hostage negotiator due to his previous relationship with Pat (they go back a long way, having worked together as DJs for a number of year) and sent back into the radio station.
From here on out, Alpha Papa settles into its premise comfortably and delivers plenty of well-written jokes that mostly hit their mark, even if the majority of them only evoke chuckles rather than full belly laughs. As a character, Alan Partridge has always been rather selfish and low-key – Alpha Papa wisely chooses not to make Alan a hero in anything but the accidental sense. Despite the seemingly high-concept premise, the hostage situation is fairly ridiculous and at one point Alan is even caught quite literally with his pants down.
It would be far too easy to overlook Steve Coogan’s acting ability (for many he is Alan Partridge) but after watching BBC comedy drama The Trip starring both Coogan and Rob Brydan, there should be no doubt left in viewer’s minds that he is as talented at conveying nuanced emotions as he is quick-firing vocal and visual gags. In short, he’s a fine actor and in Alpha Papa he fully embodies the role whilst staying true to the character despite the extreme events unfolding around him. Perhaps most importantly of all, he has great chemistry with each and every one of his fellow actors.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a gentle comedy that just so happens to feature a hostage situation, one of the slowest police chases in film history and a shootout involving an air rifle. Both fans of Alan’s previous appearances on radio and television and newcomers alike will find plenty to enjoy here – big screen outings for small screen characters can often prove disastrous, but Alpha Papa stays true to the roots of its central character and as a result, offers a comedy gem that will help UK audiences end summer 2013 with a smile upon their faces.
8 OUT OF 10