Declan Lowney, 90 mins, 15

Nicholas Barber on Alpha Papa: I'm still Alan Partridge – ah ha ha ha ha!

4.00

It's more like a TV special, but even so, Steve Coogan serves up the funniest movie this year

Steve Coogan may be revered by the Hollywood comedy fraternity, but whenever he crops up in a Hollywood comedy, the results are always as excruciating as watching a British football team fumbling a World Cup match. Whether it's Night At The Museum or The Other Guys or Tropic Thunder, you get a gang of American actors showing off their easy-going improv, and then you get Coogan being clenched and awkward, heightening every word and gesture for maximum comic effect. You could call it The Rowan Atkinson Phenomenon. Coogan doesn't seem to belong on the same planet as his co-stars, let alone the same film set.

As long as he's safely in Coogan-land, though, where his exaggerated tics and grimaces are the rule rather than the exception, his genius is never in doubt. So it's a relief to confirm that in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa he's back on his home turf, in a role that fits him like a faux-leather driving glove. The belated big-screen debut of his most enduring character, the film is, as Alan himself might put it, 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated Coogan. It may not offer audiences a great deal beyond the chance to hear how absurd the word "prejudices" can sound, or to luxuriate in a script that's stuffed with quotable lines (Oh, all right, just one: "She's a drunk racist. I can tolerate one, but not both"), but it's still more enjoyable than any of Coogan's misguided Hollywood excursions.

Not that Alpha Papa doesn't make a few concessions to the movies. It has more action than the various TV series ever had: there's a Dog Day Afternoon-inspired plot about an aggrieved ex-DJ (Colm Meaney) staging a siege in Alan's Norwich radio station. There's also less squirm-inducing discomfort than usual. Alan appears to be younger, fitter and generally more Cooganish than he used to be, and he's frequently in the unaccustomed position of being the most dignified person in the room. A decade ago, it would have been Coogan's character, not Meaney's, wielding the shotgun. But the film is essentially a showcase for Alan Partridge at his most magnificently naff and tactless – no more, no less – and that's something to be welcomed.

The only problem with all this uncompromising Partridgeness is that Alpha Papa feels more like a TV special than a movie. The director, Declan Lowney, regularly makes sitcoms which look as if they should be in the cinema, but his first film looks as cheap as anything on telly. Still, that doesn't stop it being the year's funniest comedy.

The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski, 149 mins, 12A ****) hobbles into town spavined by bad reviews and worse box-office takings in America, but if you prefer your summer blockbusters to have more ambition than Fast And Furious 6, you shouldn't be put off. It may be over-long and over-complicated, but The Lone Ranger is still a rollicking Wild West epic, with bags of surprising jokes, acres of screen-filling Utah desert-scapes, and some ingenious action set pieces which deserve to rank alongside those of Indiana Jones and Wallace and Gromit.

It's not hard to see, mind you, why viewers expecting some straight forward Western heroism were non-plussed. They may well have accepted the Batman Begins-style origin story of a priggish, pacifist lawyer (Armie Hammer) becoming a mask-wearing, gun-toting outlaw. And they may not have baulked when said outlaw teamed up with a half-crazed, make-up-plastered American Indian (Johnny Depp, hilariously channelling Buster Keaton). But they wouldn't necessarily have been ready for a cannibalistic bandit (William Fichtner) with a cross-dressing henchman, or a bordello madam (Helena Bonham Carter) with a rifle inside her ivory false leg.

Gore Verbinski, the film's director, is once again working with the writers who scripted the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and they aren't known for their economical plotting. In The Lone Ranger they pile on the weirdness for two and a half hours, stacking sombre sequences involving the slaughter of innocents on top of some whimsical gags about flesh-eating rabbits.

But if you're open to Verbinski's revisionist vision, it's bracing to see the eccentricity and the dust-smeared griminess which were there in Rango, the last Western which he and Depp made together. And it's not often you can criticise a blockbuster for trying to be too clever, rather than not clever enough.

 

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before