Steve Coogan’s cringe-inducing comedy character Alan Partridge gets the film treatment with Alpha Papa. Now the big question: Is Alan funny on the big screen?
As exciting as the news was that Steve Coogan was going to turn his classic fictional Norwich radio host character into a film, a fair chunk of Partridge fans would have been fearful that the character (who first featured on radio before a sporadic and celebrated run on television and who was a major influence on Ricky Gervais’ David Brent) wouldn’t work as a movie adaptation even though Coogan himself is now a certified film star. Partridge’s television endeavors was British comedy at its finest. Like Garry Shandling’s equally as brilliant The Larry Sanders Show, it featured a shallow main caracter who seemed impossible to love but who was impossible to ignore. Patridge was much more of a prick than Sanders. He wasn’t just shallow, he was a misogynist, incompetent and just plain weird with deviancies and seriously suspect right wing attitudes, which equalled comedy gold. Big screen Partridge isn’t as pathetic as the small screen version. He is still a narcissist, a bigot and has no idea how the modern world works but at the start of the film Partridge is content. He’s got a regular DJ gig on Norwich radio and even when there’s a threat of a corporate takeover he doesn’t seem to mind, unlike fellow veteran host Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) who thinks he will lose his job. Farrell convinces Partridge to bat for him when the suits take over. When Partridge discovers the next firing is between he and Farrell, Alan, of course, throws his colleague under the bus to save his skin. Farrell then stages a siege at the radio station, a la the underrated 90s comedy Airheads, and Alan is chosen as the go-between between the cops and Farrell and consequently becomes a TV star again, via the news cameras, while his ego returns. Alpha Papa is a showcase of how you turn a well-loved cult character into a film. Some of the weird, absurdist magic is lost with the demands of a character arc but the humour isn’t. Alpha Papa continues Coogan’s greatest comedy character’s remarkable 20-year run with a film that exceeds all expectations. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa screens at Palace Nova Cinema 1 on Friday, October 18 at 9.15pm. adelaidefilmfestival.org