Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Steve Coogan's fictional British radio and television presenter Alan Partridge makes an entirely successful leap from the very small screen of BBC television to the slightly larger screen of British cinema. There are many reasons why English TV comedy shows often translate to film better than their American counterparts, but the principle one is because the English usually do it modestly--focusing on comedy rather than spectacle.  Partridge first appeared on the 1991 BBC Radio 4 program "On the Hour," a satire of current affairs programs, on which he was a sportscaster. Coogan and the creators of that show went on to build several programs around the character over the next 2 decades. These series were early pioneers of a British sit-com format that became the near-universal standard for most contemporary mainstream comedy--ironic, tongue-in-cheek stories built around socially awkward, often superficial and narcissistic anti-heroes.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa succeeds for several reasons. Principally because Coogan is a terrific screen presence and Partridge is a rich enough character to carry a feature film. Director Declan Lowney (Father Ted, Little Britain, Married Single Other), Coogan and their team of screenwriters also smartly contain the character within a durable and familiar genre formula--the hostage picture--and cast the Irish character actor Colm Meaney (The Commitments, The Damned United) as their antagonist. Meaney, a classically trained actor not from the world of improv comedy but known for comedic roles, is an inspired choice to play Partridge’s foil. Coogan is able to find previously unseen layers in his famous alter-ego by playing off Meaney’s crazed but deeply sympathetic Pat Farrell and by trapping them both in a Dog Day Afternoon style structure. Partridge remains the same self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, cowardly milquetoast we love from TV, but we see also that he’s capable of experiencing shame, guilt, regret and other human emotions, which open up the possibility of some minor enlightenment by the end of the picture.

The film builds to a strong climax that never verges too far from broad comedy, yet still manages to keep us invested in the story and characters. The movie’s sloppy visual style suggests the nature of a production and script that changed from day to day as the actors and writers attempted to make it as funny as possible, but Coogan and Lowney never forget that they are making a 90 minute feature and not a collection of 3 minute sketches, therefor Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa doesn’t run out of gas by the halfway point like so many films of type.

Directed by Declan Lowney
Produced by Kevin Loader and Henry Normal

Screenplay by Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, and Peter Baynham
Based on the characters created by Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, and Peter Baynham

With: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall, Sean Pertwee, Anna Maxwell Martin, Darren Boyd, Nigel Lindsay, Simon Delaney, Monica Dolan, Tim Key, Paul Blackwell, Phil Cornwell, and the voice of Darren Deans

Cinematography: Ben Smithard
Editing: Mark Everson

Runtime: 90 min
Release Date: 07 August 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1