When the notion of an Alan Partridge film was first raised, it was suggested that the hapless spoof broadcaster would relocate, Borat-style, to America.
Fortunately, Steve Coogan and his long-term collaborator Armando Iannucci chose instead to ground Alan in the locale he knows best, Norwich city centre, with its controversial pedestrianisation scheme, and that is why Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa succeeds in its transition to the big screen.
Loosely inspired by Dog Day Afternoon, had the Al Pacino bank-heist drama been set at an East Anglian radio station, Alpha Papa allows Alan to don the mantle of action hero when an armed siege disrupts his unusually stable existence, presenting the morning show on North Norfolk Digital.
Can Alan use his famous chat to talk down rogue DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) who takes his colleagues hostage when the station’s rapacious new owners deem that North Norfolk’s old stagers are surplus to requirements?
More than 20 years after Alan’s radio debut, Coogan inhabits his ghastly creation so perfectly, that for long-term watchers it will be pleasure enough to watch the comic actor deliver an extended master-class in Patridgeisms.
Writers Neil and Rob Gibbons, who penned the character’s return in the 2010 Mid Morning Matters digital series, have rejuvenated Alan and given him a worthy studio partner in Sidekick Simon (Tim Key). Never offend Muslims on air, Alan warns him. “Only insult Christians… and Jews a little bit.”
There are sufficient laugh-out-loud moments to allay the nagging suspicion that Alpha Papa is merely an overgrown television episode with a bigger budget and the siege scenario allows director Declan Lowney to deliver some explosive action setpieces.
Alan’s long-suffering PA Lynn (Felicity Montagu) is thrust into the spotlight during the siege while there is a welcome cameo from the DJ’s Geordie comic foil, Michael (Simon Greenall). The comedy escalates as Partridge calculates how to extract the maximum personal advantage from his unexpected role as siege negotiator.
Alpha Papa works because Coogan is on home turf, surrounded by his familiar Partridge family and doing what he does best, despite the comic’s attempts to replicate Alan’s cultural impact with different characters. Partridge may be a joke that Coogan is fated to repeat for the rest of his career but Alpha Papa shows that it’s still a funny one.