Aha! The long-awaited Alan Partridge movie has landed and it was well worth the wait. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa sees Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham reunite to bring us a feature length Alan, in which the Norwich-based broadcaster finds himself the star of a siege after a disgruntled DJ is sacked by the bullying corporation who’ve taken over North Norfolk Digital.
Alan Partridge is a tent-pole of British comedy, and I don’t think he’d mind being described as such. Completely inhabited by Coogan, who brings the perfect combination of comedy, humanity and darkness, Alan is as fully-realised as comedy characters come. In fact it’s easy to forget that’s he’s not actually a real person. Here he’s put into a situation that’s equally life-like and that’s the film’s greatest strength. Adapting sitcoms into movies is notoriously fraught, usually sending their characters abroad or just stretching out a single episode over 90 minutes. That’s not the case in Alpha Papa, which is a proper siege film in the vein of The Negotiator or Dog Day Afternoon. Imagine Inside Man but instead of Denzel Washington it’s Alan Partridge. The result is exciting, touching and most of all, funny.
Alongside Coogan are a host of British comedy actors who completely sell every silly line, including Dan Mersh (bearded) and Tim Key (gaffa taped). Partridge fans will be pleased to see the return of characters like Lynn (Felicity Montagu), Dave (Phil Cornwell) and of course Michael (Simon Greenall), while Norwich gets some cinematic exposure as home to the action and to the Alan. The siege setting within the radio studio allows for plenty more of the satire of local radio that was so astutely perfected in Mid Morning Matters. It’s most reminiscent of the Derrick Comedy sketch in which two DJs are trapped in the studio by a wolf and have to continue their wacky broadcasting.
The film does perhaps lack the subtlety of previous Partridge incarnations as some of the nuance is taken out of the character. This is presumably to make him more sympathetic and easier to root for, which is necessary in a movie like this. In some of the television stuff, Alan Partridge was at times difficult to support – he can be extremely selfish, obnoxiously rude and downright offensive. It’s what makes him such a fully believable character and such a strangely fascinating person. Alpha Papa presents the more likeable side of Alan’s personality, with none of the glimpses of violence that reveal themselves in his darkest moments. But here Alan Partridge is the hero and that is joyous to see – he deserves some success after 20 years of hilarious tragedy and long may he continue. With his unique knack for Bouncing Back, he’s the best thing to have ever come out of Norwich (sorry Alex). Spice World!