Would you want to be stuck in a hostage situation with the most awkward radio DJ this side of the Norwich City Council? In Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013, dir. Declan Lowney), Steve Coogan stars as the charming king of chat radio, who finds himself in yet another strange situation, except this time it doesn’t involve Roger Moore. Its synopsis is as follows:
When famous DJ Alan Partridge’s radio station is taken over by a new media conglomerate, it sets in motion a chain of events which see Alan having to work with the police to defuse a potentially violent siege. (source)
It’s funny because I was worried before watching this film, despite being a big fan of the Partridge, who is played (or, embodied) with finesse by the marvellous Steve Coogan. Even as a seasoned Alan Partridge viewer, I’m only really used to seeing him for under an hour at a time, instead of a movie-length feature. I was a bit suspicious of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa because I thought the schtick might get a bit old by the end. But to the credit of the very, very talented writers (Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, and Peter Baynham), the jokes remain fresh throughout and the story develops in a naturally hilarious way. The jokes are so clever that nothing seems forced. Each joke or funny moment is so seamlessly interwoven with the overall story and supporting characters that it just felt like an extra long episode of one of Alan’s television shows, rather than a forced longer amount of time. Some may find the concept of humour around a siege with hostages in poor taste, but that’s almost half the fun of the Alan Partridge experience.
I genuinely feel that your enjoyment of this film is entirely dependent upon your tolerance for awkwardness, which is a staple of the Alan Partridge experience. I absolutely love most of the things that Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge does, and I think the humour is one hundred per cent funny. But there are some who think the show is too awkward for words, to the point of being physically uncomfortable, and I think for those people this would be a tough film to watch. I also feel like although Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is solidly funny, it almost isn’t as funny as the television features for this strange character. But it’s still funny. If that makes sense.
The direction by Declan Lowney is also pretty funny because it lends a highly dramatic and polished lens to the overall production, which paradoxically feels ironic in tone. This was initially strange because most of Alan Partridge’s television shows seem to be shot on a pretty low budget, sometimes with shaky, documentary-style camera work and visuals that are largely, shall we say, not of a high quality. But in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, the dramatic tone is enhanced with swooping cameras and suspenseful establishing shots, and an overall quality of visuals that is much higher than usual. Sometimes it seems as if the excellent directorial work is a joke in and of itself, since it’s quite unexpected that high production values would be associated with this chat show chevalier.
I’m surprised that I really liked Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s a fan of Alan’s work will have a good time whilst watching this. Some people won’t get it, but that’s fine, because he’s not for everyone. But for people who do enjoy this brand of humour, and don’t mind feeling extremely awkward, this film is generally a crowd-pleaser. It also has an ironic exploration of action film tropes that are played out in the typical dark-style humour of Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci. Whilst I’m a bigger fan of Alan Partridge’s television work, this film still had lots of solid laughs, and is definitely worth a watch.
Watch the trailer here.
Watch this film at Amazon!