Here’s a thing that bugs me. There was an Ali G and a Keith frigging Lemon movie before there was an Alan Partridge one. What the hell is wrong with the world that Keith smegging Lemon gets a film made and released theatrically before the king of North Norfolk Digital does? That legit annoys me for two reasons. 1) Keith lemon sucks and b) Keith lemon sucks balls. I’m so sharp and cutting with my wit. Anyway, the Alan Partridge film is finally a thing and I saw it last night. Is it a big plate providing more value for money than the standard plate or is it a mentalist you wish to get away from? Click the link below to find out!!!
As a Brit I am legally obliged to be a fan of Alan Partridge. If ever you come across a Brit that says they dislike Alan Partridge, they’re probably a Russian spy or something. Luckily for me, I really enjoy the chap. Over the years Steve Coogan has taken Alan Partridge beyond being just a character to the point where his life is almost as real as Coogan’s. I’m not sure how much of Alan Partridge has ever been shown outside the UK, but here he is a national treasure. Over the past 20 or so years we’ve dropped in and out of Alan’s life at various points. He’s been from the highs of working at the BBC on a mid-to-late prime time slot to the lows of living in his caravan whilst trying desperately to get his career restarted. You can read his life story in the book I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan, or better yet get the audio book as it is read by Alan himself. Despite all this love I have for dear old Alan I was quite apprehensive about a film adaptation. It’s not uncommon for film adaptations of TV shows to either feel like extended TV series episodes (The X-Files Movies) or to horribly pandering crap made to please morons… such as that fecking Keith lemon movie. I’m strictly talking about film adaptations which follow the original cast of course. When you move onto modern adaptations you get stuff like Lost In Space and that’s just something I don’t have the available word count to cover here. Not that I have a limit on words… it’s just that one word is too many.
In Alpha Papa, as the film is subtitle, Alan is working for North Norfolk Digital radio and is enjoying being employed. He’d like to be back on TV, but that’s just the pipe dreams of a younger man. Norfolk Digital is in the process of being taken over by a large corporation that have decided to re-brand the station as Shape, because words like “shape” create an identity with the youth of today. When rumours of cuts start cropping up which threaten to take out the old guard of radio DJs Alan, in a typical act of cowardice, suggests the bosses fire long time fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). This goes according to plan. What doesn’t go according to plan is the radio station’s launch party because Pat, now armed with a shotgun, has decided it’s time to take hostages and take back the radio station he loved. Pat requests Alan, who had already run away, become his liaison with the police for negotiations, a task Alan isn’t too keen on at first… until the TV cameras turn up that is.
So effectively we have a comedy film that sits somewhere between a siege negotiation movie and Die Hard here. Except Alan is less John McClane and more Harry Ellis. Once Alan gets a sniff of the potential PR goodness that came come from being the face of the siege… the siege face, if you will… Alan begins to maybe lose a little of his investment in bringing an end to the siege. Also, the fact he regularly has a gun pointed at him and the fact he is a coward leads him to pretty much do the opposite of what the police would like him to do. Let is not be said that Alan isn’t proactive though. He certainly is. It’s just that his proactivity is entirely selfish and, occasionally, fantastical. This is classic Alan.
As the film rolls along it toys with ego, nostalgia and takes quite a few shots at the modern entertainment industry’s obsession with branding, identity and the lack thereof as a result. Alpha Papa may not be tackling larger, philosophical issues, but it is attempting to at least make some kind of statement regarding the youth and shallowness of celebrity obsessed culture of entertainment today. A world Alan would probably dream to be a part of, as long as it meant he could still play Bryan Ferry. Regardless of the odd little stabs the film makes at popular culture today it really all boils down to Alan. Thankfully he’s just as much of a lovable, yet truly terrible human being, here as he was in the original radio shows and TV series.
I’ve reviewed a few British comedies in the last few weeks and, whilst I enjoyed them all, none have managed the sheer belly laugh quota that Alpha Papa hits. Its jokes hit the mark with the laser like precision of the Paveway III, which as you well know, has a longer range than the Paveway II. What I’m suggesting is that the jokes will not wear thin on repeated viewing, they have length. It takes a few moments to get a little serious, as Pat and Alan both have issues to address, but it always remembers to go out on a punchline.
Structurally the film is fine but there is a few issues with direction. Because Alan, as a character, is very selfishly motivated he is often not effecting the progression of the siege in either a positive or negative way. There’s a few moments where the film comes into danger of stalling but those moments don’t last for long. There’s also a feeling that some elements of the film may have been edited out for time. Alan’s long time friend Michael (Simon Greenall) barely has a role in the film, which is odd considering how much of the series is based around their banter. A romance Alan has with a co-worker is also handled as a tiny side element when it could have been exploited for maximum Alan based awkwardness. On the plus side, Alan’s long suffering PA, Lynn (Felicity Montagu) has a small story arc of her own as, for the first time in her life, she is being looked after by common decent people. She even gets her hair done, which I’ve heard some people say kind of looks like a photo of an explosion.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa all builds towards an action packed finale involving a radio roadshow tour bus, a septic tank and a tense stand-off of Norfolk’s Cromer pier. As finales go it evokes memories of summer road-shows attended by myself as a child along with a typically British play on the sort of action finale’s of US films. One thing it successfully avoids, thankfully, is suddenly becoming a film it is not. A trap Pineapple Express foolishly stumbled into. As mentioned, I am quite an Alan Partridge fan, so I may be a little biased when I say this is the best film made since Goldfinger and easily the greatest film of the modern era. If I were to tone back my enthusiasm I’d say it’s a damn fine movie alternative to the usual summer dross and has enough laughs in it to make sure that Alpha Papa is a film worthy of the status of the character and is infinitely better than that fecking Keith lemon film.