The legendary Alan Partridge returns, this time on the big screen. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa could have been a case of one trip too many to the same comedy well, and after the massively successful radio and television series, a medium too far. Thankfully that is not the case. Alpha Papa is hilarious.
Alan (Steve Coogan) is working at North Norfolk Digital hosting radio show “Mid Morning Matters”, when the station is acquired in a corporate takeover. Upon discovering his new bosses are either going to get rid of him or Colm Meaney’s country and western DJ Pat Farrell, Alan urges the management to “just sack Pat”. Unfortunately, Pat doesn’t take kindly to being fired and a hostage crisis ensues – a siege in which Alan finds himself negotiating on behalf of the police.
Taking its cue from classic siege dramas like Dog Day Afternoon, The Negotiator and Inside Man, director Declan Lowney gives Alpha Papa a little cinematic flair that enhances the black comedy. There’s even a hilarious line about the Iranian Embassy siege being Alan’s “all time favourite siege”.
Here Alan has evolved a little, perhaps becoming a tiny bit more sympathetic. He’s given a love interest of sorts and even attempts to be politically correct. For instance, in one highly amusing early scene he berates a fellow presenter for making a joke about Islam, saying to only make jokes about Christianity, or Judaism a little bit. But he’s still essentially the same gaffe-prone, petty narcissist we all know and love to cringe at.
A few other characters from the TV series return, including long suffering PA Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and inept Geordie security guard Michael (Simon Greenall). They have a couple of good moments, but the core of the comedy is Coogan. Whether miming along to Roachford or delivering highly quotable one-liners (“jingle genocide”, “siege face” and so on), Alan Partridge remains a classic comedy creation.
Amid the comedy there is some attempt at satirising corporate ghastliness drowning the personalities of radio DJs (including interminable corporate slogans such as “living the brand”). There is even a moment when Lynn quotes the Bible to Alan when he milks his role in the siege for all the publicity it is worth, warning that he may gain the world but lose his soul. Alan’s response? He’s not selling his soul – he’s just renting it for lots of money on a long term basis.
There is some bad language and one or two cruder elements, but Partridge fans will no doubt take such things in their stride. As for those poor deprived audiences totally unfamiliar with the character, they might initially be somewhat bemused, but in the end they will probably enjoy Alpha Papa too.