Review: Alan Partridge
PLOT: Middle-aged, veteran radio broadcaster Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is horrified to discover that his sleepy radio station is being taken over by a multimedia conglomerate. Fearing he won’t fit in with their “hip” sound, and knowing someone’s bound to get laid-off, he manages to get an even older DJ, Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) sacked. When Farrell learns of his fate he takes the station staff hostage, and thinking that Partridge is his friend, insists that he’ll only negotiate with the now very-frightened announcer. When the siege turns into a media sensation, Partridge sees an opportunity to both endear himself to his new bosses, and possibly give his career a second wind.
REVIEW: Steve Coogan is a bit like Sacha Baron Cohen, in that he’s popular in both the UK and North America, but for different reasons. Here he’s mostly known for his more sophisticated work in Michael Winterbottom movies and the recent smash PHILOMENA. Just like Cohen and Ali G, Coogan’s most famous creation is more or less obscure on this side of the Atlantic. In the UK, he’s a megastar thanks in large part to the character Alan Partridge, which he’s played on-and-off since 1991. This is Coogan’s long-awaited (in the UK anyway) return to the part that made him famous and the character’s first big-screen vehicle.
Perhaps sensing that American audiences won’t be familiar with Partridge, the jokey ALPHA PAPA title – which is on the UK print – has been dropped, with marketing emphasizing Coogan over the character. Even if you’ve never seen one of Coogan’s Partridge series (there are two full seasons, along with tons of one-offs and radio specials) the film is easy to get into with all of the pertinent details of the character being expertly conveyed within the first few minutes. Partridge is terminally unhip, and stuck in limbo somewhere between the late eighties and early nineties, in both his dress and manner. After a long career, Partridge is isolated from his family, and now scrapping the bottom of the barrel, with only his devoted personal assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and his put-upon sidekick Simon (Tim Key) to keep him company.
If you’ve seen the show, the brand of humor will be familiar. Coogan gets lots of mileage out of Partridge’s lack of cool, with the credits featuring him passionately rocking out and lip-synching to eighties UK power-pop hit “Cuddly Toy” by Roachford. His clothes are hideous, his hairdo ludicrous, and despite having played him for over twenty years, Coogan seems to be having the time of his life. This is a far cry from Coogan’s somewhat “cool” vibe in North America, with this being the broadest he’s been since the terminally underrated HAMLET 2 (a movie that should have done far better than it did).
As a result, viewers shouldn’t expect too sophisticated a film, despite Armando Iannucci’s co-screenwriting credit. Having co-created the character with Coogan long before his work on THE THICK OF IT, IN THE LOOP and VEEP, this is a different kind of comedy, although he does get in a couple of searing jokes, including a bit where Partridge warns Simon that the only religion they can safely mock on the air is Christianity. But, while it’s broad and very goofy at times, ALAN PARTRIDGE is also frequently hilarious. Colm Meaney, who mostly sticks to heavier parts these days his hilarious and even occasionally touching as the put-out-to-pasture DJ and his chemistry with Coogan is spot-on. One thing the British have always done well is mix humor with pathos, and while it’s never applied too thickly, there are moments that address the cruelty of today’s youth-driven media, and the heartlessness of conglomerates. That said there’s more emphasis on jokes that involve Partridge losing his pants, and people defecating in Tupperware that any kind of social critique. Clearly the goal here is nothing more than to make audiences laugh, which this does over and over.
If you’re already familiar with the character than this is an easy sell, as Coogan truly hasn’t missed a beat despite being away from the character for a while. If you only know Coogan from his more sophisticated work, give this a try. You’ll be surprised at how adept a physical comedian he is. While it’s certainly a broad, goofy comedy, it’s also frequently funny and always fun to watch.
|Extra Tidbit:||Alan Partridge is also a huge 007 fan. Here's a memorable bit from the show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czWLEbNwjCI|