MOVIE REVIEW | Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

TV shows becoming movies.  No matter how great the TV version, or maybe precisely because the TV version might have been really great, the move adaptations rarely live up to expectations.  The Simpson Movie had some solid gags, but ultimately the bigger screen and longer running time just magnified its flaws.  And not even Michael J Fox could save the Family Ties movie where the Keatons go to London and somehow get mixed up in international espionage.  But while I’ve waited and waited for this movie to come out in Australia, my hopes have been constantly raised by one awesome UK review after another.   Unfortunately, they were raised a little too high.  Because even though Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is funny…  Really, really funny…  It’s not quite the skirt lifter I’ve been waiting for all these years.

A continuation from the awesome web series Mid Morning Matters, Alan (Steve Coogan) is hosting his morning show on North Norfolk Digital, a small time radio station in small time town.  Recently bought out by a faceless corporation, North Norfolk Digital is being rebranded to target younger listeners, so middle aged DJs like Partridge and Colm Meaney’s Pat Farrell are marked for redundancy.

In true Machiavellian style, Alan keeps his job at the expense of Pat’s.  Pat’s response is to take the station staff hostage, obviously.  Now it’s Alan’s job to be the man on the inside and mediate Pat’s surrender to the police.

This whole hostage situation was what scared me most when I first saw trailers for Alpha Papa months ago.  Like the afore mentioned Alex P Keaton getting mixed up in Euro spy shenanigans, this sort of upping of the anti is usually the what makes TV to movie adaptations miss so much more often than they hit.  But here, they generally nail it.

A siege really is the perfect situation to highlight Alan’s worst tendencies.  His craving of fame, his selfishness, his egotism, his complete lack of self awareness.  Alan Partridge indulging in all of these flaws is always funny.  Alan Partridge indulging in all of these flaws within such an over the top, intense setting is consistently hilarious.

And while these moments are great, Alpha Papa lets itself down fairly often with character consistency.  More than once, Alan acts almost selflessly, bravely or intelligently.  And not in a big-climax-learned-his-lesson kind of way, but in a just sort of matter of fact kind of way.  That’s not the Alan Partridge that has been established over the last 20 years.

In the series I’m Alan Partridge, the entire premise of his long suffering assistant Lyn (Felicity Montagu) was that she was 100 percent submissive and almost sycophantic in her desire to please Alan.  Here, she has more than one flash of out of place confidence that just doesn’t seem right.

The decision not to go full middle aged man makeup on Coogan also takes something away.  Partridge and Lyn both look younger in Alpha Papa than they did in I’m Alan Partridge more than a decade ago.  I get that being fictional characters means they can play things pretty fast and lose as far as time lines and continuity go, but the older Partridge of the TV series was a little more pathetic, a little sadder, and that worked to make his immense ego even funnier.

It can’t be easy making a movie based on a beloved character like Alan Partridge.  How do the writers give us all the things we love without just rehashing the show?   Every fan has a million ideas in their head of how the movie should work, and there’s no way the real thing could please us all. And even though I’ve written several paragraphs about what I didn’t like, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa really did make me laugh, a lot.

The last few years have been kind to Alan Partridge fans.  I’ve seen Steve Coogan perfume as the character live, Mid Morning Matters and its introduction of Sidekick Simon were awesome additions to the Partridge universe, and the fictional autobiography I, Partridge, We Need to Talk About Alan, is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.  And while the movie didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I don’t think anything could have.

At it’s best, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is as dense with killer jokes as the TV show ever was.  At it’s worse, it’s lazily wasting an amazing character like Michael the Geordie.  But even now, an hour or so after the end credits rolled, I’m already wondering how long do I have to wait to buy the blu-ray.

Oh, one more awesome thing.  It gives a nod to Alan’s love of the bass guitar, therefore giving me an excuse to include a link to this classic old chestnut from the TV show.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Directed By – Declan Lowney
Written By – Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci

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