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Alan Partridge Alpha Papa

D: Declan Lowney / 90m

Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall, Simon Delaney, Sean Pertwee, Tim Key, Monica Dolan, Phil Cornwell, Anna Maxwell Martin, Darren Boyd

When North Norfolk Radio is taken over by an American who wants to revamp the schedules and weed out the below-par presenters, Alan Partridge (Coogan) suggests they get rid of fellow presenter Pat Farrell (Meaney).  Pat doesn’t take too kindly to being fired and returns to the radio station armed with a shotgun.  Soon he’s taken the rest of the staff hostage and Partridge finds himself helping the police by being their “man on the inside”.  What follows are several attempts by Partridge to get Pat to surrender, interspersed with scenes where Partridge seeks to boost his profile via the media attention surrounding the siege.

Alan Partridge Alpha Papa - scene

It was only a matter of time, and presumably the right script, before the TV legend that is Alan Partridge would be given his cinematic debut.  Big screen incarnations of small screen successes don’t always get it right, though, and Coogan’s monstrous creation is another example to add to the pile.  Too often the humour is forced by either circumstance or the need to inject a big laugh every ten minutes or so; it doesn’t arise organically so much from the characters, as from the situation they find themselves in.  That’s not to say that the movie isn’t funny, it’s just that the jokes lack the inventiveness of Partridge’s TV outings, and the parts that do work are unpredictable and inconsistent.  The script, by Coogan, Peter Baynham,  Armando Iannucci, and Neil and Rob Gibbons, is a bit of a patchwork, with some scenes struggling and/or failing to make much of an impact.

Despite the script’s obvious shortcomings, Coogan is excellent – as expected – as the repellent yet strangely likeable Partridge, while Meaney is given little to do other than act menacing and wax lyrical about the “good old days” of radio broadcasting.  Of the other cast members, Key shines as Partridge’s producer/assistant, Simon, and there are returning faces from the TV series’ such as Montagu as Lynn Benfield.  There’s also a running joke involving the drummer of Marillion.

Lowney’s direction is flat and unrewarding, while the photography by Ben Smithard is drab and unremarkable.  The confines of the radio station seem larger than the building appears from the outside, and the whole movie has that contrasting claustrophobic low budget feel of so many TV-to-movie adaptations.  Partridge is a brilliant creation, spitting egotistical soundbites and ill-considered personal comments at every move, but on this occasion the feature-length format fails to add anything to  the character and serves only to illustrate the strengths of the TV shows.

Rating: 5/10 – a misfire, and one that remains fitfully amusing; one for the fans, certainly, but newcomers to the world of Alan Partridge should beware: there’s less here than meets the eye.