MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Steve Coogan as ALAN PARTRIDGE
Colm Meaney as PAT FARRELL
Felicity Montagu as LYNN BENFIELD
Tim Key as SIDE KICK SIMON
Simon Greenall as MICHAEL
Monica Dolan as ANGELA ASHBOURNE
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by: Declan Lowney
BY KEVIN CARR
While I don’t have a ubiquitous love for all British comedies (I have to admit that I never liked “Absolutely Fabulous” or “Are You Being Served?” very much), I tend to enjoy what is put out by our cousins across the pond. “Alan Partridge” is no exception to this.
The character actually has his roots in various programs on British airwaves, conceived and performed by fearless comedian Steve Coogan. I’ve given a listen to a good chunk of the more recent “Mid-Morning Matters” on YouTube, and while it is just bordering on being too dry for my tastes, I really enjoy what I’ve seen.
Now, Coogan’s blundering radio show host personality Alan Partridge has gotten his own movie. It’s bigger, and it’s more outrageous. Originally called “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” in the U.K., then “Alan Partridge: The Movie” for its limited release in the states, the now simplified “Alan Partridge” is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s quite a fun ride.
The story follows egocentric buffoon Alan Partridge (Coogan) as he faces a corporate take-over of his radio station. With any change in ownership, the staff is worried about lay-offs. In particular, long-time DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is worried that he or Alan will get sacked. After Alan throws Pat under the bus to save his own job, Pat returns for the launch party and takes the station hostage with a shotgun. Alan then becomes the unlikely hostage negotiator to help talk Pat down and bring the rest of his crew home safely… as long as he can also bolster his career in the process.
Like many British comedies, “Alan Partridge” is both extremely dry but also quite outrageous at times. Coogan has no shame – a fact he once admitted to me in an interview – and this is on display in this movie. The build-up is quite slow, playing off like a movie version of the “Mid-Morning Manners” bits online. However, once the siege starts, there’s plenty to enjoy, with the film giving some pretty obvious nods to other British cop comedies like “Hot Fuzz.”
Of course, the keystone in this entire film is the man behind the title character. Coogan walks that delicate line between being a character you love and a character you love to hate. He’s an ass, but there’s still something ultimately charming about him. And in the spirit of the film itself, you don’t want anyone to get seriously hurt, but it’s a great deal of fun watching people fall over each other.
However, even with the big budget police stand-off angle the film takes about half-way through, the story is still surprisingly intimate. There’s real people in this film… not Alan, of course (though I’ve met some characters in my time who would give him a run for his money). Instead, the characters are the other folks on the screen, who fill out the supporting cast around the “Mid-Morning Matters” crew. In particular, Meaney gives a heartfelt performance as Pat, a dinosaur being left behind in an evolving world.
Having spent a little bit of time around radio stations, I can say this is not an inconceivable story. Sure, the hostage crisis is outrageous, but the corporate take-over and apparent willy-nilly firing of employees to chase a younger demographic is all too real, and it’s a shame that the medium has changed to the degree it has.
Ultimately, “Alan Partridge” serves multiple purposes. It’s a touching story of the people affected by corporate change. It’s also a screwball comedy with a larger-than-life character at the center. “Alan Partridge” keeps itself contained in the story and focuses on the silliness at hand rather than big action moments and Hollywood effects… and that makes it a success for the type of movie it is.
The Blu-ray comes with a few enjoyable special features. There’s a short “Making of Alan Partridge” video, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and AXS TV’s “Look at Alan Partridge.”