Review: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Poster for 2013 comedy film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 7th August 2013
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Declan Lowney
Writer: Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Steve Coogan
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key, Felicity Montagu
Synopsis: North Norfolk Digital is taken over by a big corporation, leading to redundancies and an Irish man with a gun. Only Alan Partridge can save the day.



Since the almighty success of The Inbetweeners Movie, Brit TV on the big screen has become a big thing. After Keith Lemon: The Film, it was easy to hope that it would stop, but fortunately, it has continued long enough to create the absolutely wonderful Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.

Alan (Steve Coogan) finds his job at risk when North Norfolk Digital is absorbed by a huge media corporation. When he convinces the business bigwigs to sack fellow ageing DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), he inadvertently instigates an armed siege. The police arrive, but the only person with whom Pat will negotiate is Alan, who must enter the building and make Pat release his hostages.

This year is yet to produce a piece of cinema as purely joyous as Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Mark Kermode always maintains that the true test of a comedy film is that it has to have at least six laugh-out-loud moments. Alpha Papa managed that within the first few scenes. Based on pure laugh count, it’s the funniest comedy of the year by a considerable distance.

Steve Coogan continually returns to the Alan Partridge character and, on the strength of this, it’s easy to see why. He is in his element as Alan and, for this brisk 90 minute caper, the portrayal is absolutely effortless. Colm Meaney is almost as good as hostage-taking DJ Pat Farrell, with Tim Key providing ample support as Sidekick Simon.

Wisely, Alpha Papa steers clear of the “take the character abroad” trap and keeps the action wonderfully parochial. Much of the movie stays within the radio station building and it never leaves the boundaries of Norfolk at all, which wisely keeps Alan familiar and funny. In fact, there is barely a single moment in the film where there isn’t something going on that’s absolutely hilarious.

The plot is suitably wacky, but Alpha Papa wisely doesn’t bother trying to turn the Norwich-based hostage situation into a glossy Hollywood actioner, akin to what Welcome to the Punch tried to do with London. Even as bullets fly, this is still very much Alan and still very much Norfolk. And that proves to be the movie’s main strength.

Creator Armando Iannucci and the writing team have hit the zenith of TV-film adaptations and it’s difficult to see where the genre can go from this point. Certainly, it’s brave to make a film that’s so fiercely British in its humour. Here, as with The World’s End, that risk pays off.

This definitely will not be the last we see of Alan Partridge, but next time we return to North Norfolk Digital, it better be this good again.


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