Knowing me, Mr Chrisparkle, knowing you, gentle reader, A-HA! Sorry, couldn’t resist that. If you don’t know what that refers to, then obviously you’re not a fan of the early Alan Partridge, in which case I am slightly wondering why you are interested in an opinion about his latest and indeed only film, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa”. If Alan Partridge is a new comic creation to you, then you ought to know that he’s a narcissistic knob who was once a sports reporter on Radio Norwich, then promoted beyond his capabilities to host his own dire chat show, but who today is propping up the airwaves on some backwater station called North Norfolk Digital with the show “Mid Morning Matters”. If you have loved all Mr Partridge’s TV and radio appearances over the last twenty years you will know that, depending on the script, this would be either 0% or 100% hilarious.
100% it is. North Norfolk Digital is being bought out by a media conglomerate with no feeling for its slightly more middle-aged audience, and is only interested in yoof breakfast shows fronted by a smarmy young git who deplores anything aged over 23. Alan is confident that the new regime will respect his broadcasting gifts and keep him on the payroll, but aging DJ colleague Pat Farrell, played by Colm Meaney, fears it’s the end for him and his night-time radio snoozathon. Realising that it’s either Pat or Alan who has to go, Alan betrays Pat to the radio board, Pat gets sacked and Alan keeps his job. However, Pat doesn’t take this lying down and holds half the radio station staff hostage in a bizarre shotgun siege, and Alan is sent in to negotiate. Enough plot summary – you’ll have to watch the film to see how it works out.
As you might have guessed it’s a double spoof – not only the whole Alan Partridge/North Norfolk Digital thing (alas I have to break it to you that neither really exist) but also of the Hollywood hostage siege genre with Alan as a kind of East Anglian Bruce Willis. In many respects it’s quite a moral story – a criticism of big business barging its way into the everyday lives of ordinary people whom it is happy to destroy without any consideration for the personal fallout. However, with Alan Partridge at the helm, any moral turpitude is likely to stem from him. You’ll be delighted to know that his character is still as full of questionable taste, supreme arrogance, woeful ineptitude, pathetic cowardice, absurd prejudice, schoolboy smut and utter hypocrisy as ever he was.
It’s stacked full of LOL moments, many of them surprisingly subtle and under-egged so that it has a great lightness of touch and you never feel that one joke is being milked beyond its capacity. Whether it’s his escaping through a window only for his trousers and pants to get caught on the latch, or his hiding (literally) in a toilet there’s lots of physical comedy as well as that created from his character flaws and interactions with everyone else. There are some great performances from the supporting cast – Felicity Montagu is terrific as his long-suffering PA Lynn, all dolled up when she has to front the media, and there’s the unexpected pleasure of seeing Anna Maxwell Martin as the no-nonsense officer in charge of the police operation, visibly stretching Alan’s distrust of women in power.
A quick mention also to the great use of music in the film; regrettably Alan’s and my tastes in music coincide quite a lot, and seeing his totally uninhibited singalong to the radio in the car with full use of steering wheel bongos reminded me just how stupid I must look sometimes. The use of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” was brilliant and I bopped in my cinema seat something dreadful. So if you’re a Partridge fan, you’re going to love this film. I could easily imagine it being severely embarrassing if it had been dogged with a poor script, but instead it’s very well written, beautifully put together and extremely funny.