Film review: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (15)

Coogan flies high in new Partridge outing

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The Independent Culture

The hilariously inane, irredeemably naff and socially inept Norwich-born broadcaster Alan Partridge is a role that Steve Coogan has played in various media for more than 20 years, and while the long tradition of big-screen spin-offs of British TV sitcoms is not an especially glorious one, Coogan slips as easily into the role as into a comfortable pair of leather driving gloves.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa isn't so steeped in pathos as the best episodes of I'm Alan Partridge or Mid-Morning Matters, but it does play to the character's strengths, giving him reams of carefully honed comic writing disguised as casual malapropisms and off-the-cuff banter. And while it has the trappings of a Dog Day Afternoon-style siege drama, it is an appropriately parochial and scaled-down affair, with only the most bathetic action sequences.

After the ignominy of having his BBC chat-show cancelled in the mid-Nineties, having been reduced to living in the Linton Travel Tavern, and suffering a Toblerone-induced nervous breakdown, Partridge has bounced back as far as the mid-morning slot on North Norfolk Digital, a regional DAB platform from which he broadcasts his thoughts on such pressing matters as the torsional strength of vegetables.

But when the station is rebranded by its new corporate owners, depressed widower DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is fired, only to return with a shotgun and take the management and some recurring cast members hostage.

As inept as he inevitably proves at hostage negotiations, Partridge nevertheless gets to broadcast live from the siege and see a rise in his local celebrity. In fact, we haven't seen him with such a spring in his step since his glory days hosting Knowing Me, Knowing You.

It makes Alpha Papa a celebratory, even joyous cinema experience. Especially when the soundtrack includes such Alan-approved gems as Rochford's "Cuddly Toy", John Franham's "You're the Voice", and the theme from Ski Sunday.