Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - Cinema Review

'finds the “back of the net”'

Looking back at the history of British TV sitcoms making the move to the big screen, you’ll be hard pressed to find an example that truly impresses. Writers and directors have the option to stay safe, essentially producing a feature-length sitcom episode that will please the majority of fans but results in a comedy film which fails to explore new ideas or push boundaries (for a recent example, see The Inbetweeners Movie). Or they can try something riskier, avoiding formula and attempting something more original but with a greater chance of disappointing at least some of the fanbase (2005’s The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse springs to mind). Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa arguably attempts to walk a tightrope between the two; whilst it doesn’t wholly avoid the negatives, it also thankfully finds the “back of the net”, as Alan might say, satisfyingly regularly.

The handful of misfires that writer and star Steve Coogan achieves are when the film is at its most low-brow. A sequence in which Alan (Coogan) ends up naked from the waist down is old hat and has no place here, and a scatalogical joke involving Alan’s dim friend Michael (Simon Greenall) may draw a snigger but feels cheap in comparison to the rest of the script. Thankfully, the majority of what is on offer here finds the same level of finely-honed humour seen throughout Coogan’s small screen outings.

After a joke-laden first act with some classic Partridge moments, Alpha Papa slows down following the first action stint. In some ways it feels as though things are being padded out somewhat as the second act begins to look more like a series of interconnected vignettes than a coherent story. But there are some undeniable laugh-out-loud moments as the plot is allowed to fade out of focus until the final act - one particularly memorable sequence means you’ll never be able to hear the theme from Ski Sunday in quite the same way again. Much of the action here is also well directed with Declan Lowney, largely known for his TV work, showing a knack for cinematic output.

On paper, and indeed on screen, Alpha Papa is a good, solid action-comedy. But what earns it that extra star to raise it towards excellence is the performance from Steve Coogan. An actor whose career in film has not been as celebrated as on the small screen, Coogan as Alan Partridge is one of the all-time great character comedy performances. Coogan inhabits Partridge entirely having refined the role for over two decades, with every tick and voice inflection crafted expertly.

If you’re not a fan of the awkward style of comedy Coogan has perfected through Partridge, then Alpha Papa won’t win you over, but then it was never intended to. Whilst adapting the character to his latest setting, Coogan refuses at any point to water down his comedy creation as others have in the past when making the transfer to the big screen. Partridge is as cringeworthy, socially inept and unfashionably retro as he has ever been thanks to Coogan’s note-perfect performance. Alpha Papa can rightfully claim its place next to Alan Partridge’s finest past outings, and as a worthy addition to modern British film comedy.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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