Alan Partridge: ALpha Papa

Art & Culture

It is never easy to take a 30 minute TV show, especially a comedy, and turn it into a full length film. The In Betweeners managed it a couple of years ago (and made a fortune in the process), but most small to large screen adaptations fall flat on their face. Happily, Alpha Papa  is another success story.

Assuming that you wouldn’t be thinking of going to see an Alan Partridge film without knowing who he is, I will only say that he is the fictional creation of Steve Coogan (and other writers) who has been with us in various contexts for over two decades, and that his appeal lies as much in his weaknesses as in his qualities (which are few and far between).

At the beginning of the film, Alan is working at North Norfolk Radio using his familiar technique of trying and failing to be witty and erudite. But the station has been taken over by a conglomerate, who have plans to streamline and modernise it. This means job losses among the older DJs, and it looks being a straight choice between Alan and his Irish colleague Pat (Colm Meaney). Partly due to Partridge’s lack of loyalty, it’s Pat who gets the chop, but he returns later that night to gatecrash a launch party, and take everyone hostage, apart from AP, who then has to return as the go between for the police. Thus he finds himself in the awkward position of trying to play both ends against the middle, a situation which is further complicated by the fact that his ego – never far from the surface – starts to rear its ugly head at the wrong time.

The core issue that faces film makers trying to turn 30 minutes into 90, is how to create a vehicle that doesn’t run out of steam.The trick here is that the screenwriters have found a structure which makes the time pass easily. The hostage situation movie is a familiar enough genre for us to feel at home, and also allows lots of opportunities to poke fun at the cliches. And in order to avoid any feeling of staleness and claustrophobia, there are a few scenes that take place outside the radio station, followed by a slow motion car chase and shootout, that is an appealing antidote to the usual nonsense.

So, my verdict is that this ticks the key box for a comedy. It’s funny. It made me (and the rest of the audience) laugh at regular intervals. What you’d make of it if you’ve never come across Alan Partridge before, I have no idea – in other words, what, if any, success it will have in the USA. But for now it’s No. 1 in the UK and a film that I can happily recommend as a fun evening out (or – in due course – in).


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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