For those who know me, it’s painfully aware that comedy isn’t exactly my genre of choice when it comes to watching a flick. Well, unless it’s a classic like “Airplane!” or if the laughs are mixed in with other, better genres such as thriller and romance. That being said, Brits seem to have a direct line to my funny bone with films like “Snatch” “The Cornetto Trilogy,” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” amongst other countless successes. So, when I heard that long time television character Alan Partridge, one of my all-time favourite television personalities played by the incomparable Steve Coogan was getting a big-screen flick, you can imagine my excitement. “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” met my expectations right where I put them…somewhere in the clouds. It’s a perfect mix of intelligent, witty humour, lowbrow laughs and the occasional emotional strain. However, keep in mind that this kind of hilarity isn’t for everyone…
Originating as a radio personality created by Coogan himself, Alan Partridge first appeared on the BBC radio 4 programme “On the Hour.” Then, before making the jump to his most successful undertaking, the television show “I’m Alan Partridge,” this satirical, self-made, small-time celebrity really came into form when he lent his expertise to several TV and radio specials. As time passed, Coogan’s wacky, self-obsessed invention grew quite the cult following and became a more elaborate, rooted individual. Delving into a complex family situation, an almost non-existent love/social-life, and bizarre friends and co-workers, the life of Alan Partridge became something much greater and more complex than ever anticipated. He was now as much apart of the real world as he was fiction. Now, here he is, over twenty years down the road and Alan Partridge is still relevant, hilarious, and growing.
Beginning in 2004, the idea of a Partridge film was very much alive. However, upon suffering numerous setbacks in the writing phase and struggling with delicate content, in addition to Coogan who was unsure if he wanted to continue on with his creation, the film was severely delayed. Nonetheless, it is now 2013 and after a lengthy period of uncertainty, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” hit theatres earlier this year to the acclaim of critics and cult-followers alike. Co-written by Coogan himself and directed by Declan Lowney, this unorthodox hostage flick holds the distinction of being my favourite comedy of the year. Oozing with laughs stemming from humour that ranges from smart to lowbrow, all the way down to pitch-black chuckles, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” delivers the goods. Add in some charismatic performances and satirical undertones directed at our social and political stances, and you’ve got the most successful underdog of the year, in my honest opinion.
Alan Partridge is content with his DJ position at North Norfolk Digital in Norwich. However, when the station is bought by a multinational conglomerate and the name is changed to “Shape,” Alan’s good friend Pat Farrell begins to fear the worst. After Pat and a few other co-workers convince Alan to discuss business with the station’s new owners and assure their job statuses, Alan’s irrelevance to the situation soon shifts to panic when he figures out that his job might be in question. Upon convincing his superiors to keep him on, Alan accidental on purpose throws someone under the bus. The next day, the fired employee returns and begins to shoot up the workplace and takes hostages. When the police fail to reach a settlement with the perp, Alan is called in to negotiate the standoff.
As you’ve probably concluded by now, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” stars the magnificent Steve Coogan, whom I adore dearly. The cast also features Colm Meaney as Pat Farrell, with Felicity Montagu reprising her role as Lynn and Simon Greenall returning as Michael for those familiar with the television show. Make no mistake though, this is the Steve Coogan show. This goes without saying, but to me Coogan is a comedic genius and anytime he gets to flex his acting chops is just an added delight, as those who’ve seen “The Trip” will agree. Coogan struts his stuff in this flick masterfully and I can confidently say that it’s one of his best comedic outings. Colm Meaney plays opposite Coogan here, which is no easy feat. That being said, he does a sublime job matching Coogan joke for joke, laugh for laugh. Honestly, Meaney hasn’t been this effective in years and it’s joyously see him return to form.
As much as I despise the genre, especially in its current state, everyone needs a good laugh now and again. “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” is, without question, the funniest film I’ve seen so far this year, and it looks as if it’ll stay that way. It won’t win any Oscars, it won’t even be nominated, but it’s definitely worth the watch and I’ll be sure to pick it up on Bluray when it’s released.