"...Coogan never disappoints, remaining true to his character’s reptilian roots."
Sadly, Alan Partridge never found the love stateside as David Brent, Ricky Gervais's character who oversaw the original British version of The Office. I say "sadly" only for the few who failed to catch the incredibly witty ego-centric creation of the immensely talented Steve Coogan, a character that could match Brent in his slimy, narcissistic broadcaster who would have easily been sewn from the same seed.
The character has been one of the most enduring of Coogan's career (stateside, he would gain modest success as a bit player in larger productions such as Tropic Thunder and Night at the Museum). He came into his own in the 1997 BBC series Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, which documented a failed glitzy talk-show that blazed as spectacularly awful/fun as a Super Bowl nipple slip. It was followed in 2002 by I'm Alan Partridge, which followed the host, ego only partially deflated, as the overnight host of a sad radio program in Norwich, and later a web-based series called Mid Morning Matters.
Now, in his first feature-length film, Alan finds that the very station he's working is about to be taken over. Not in a Steven Segal-angry-terrorist kind of way, but rather a media conglomerate that is aiming to slash jobs and reach a hip demographic. For those who have followed any Alan Partridge, the fear of losing his job and aiming to appear hip is all he needs to bring out his best/worst.
Willing to exploit any opportunity to advance his career, Alan quickly points to overnight broadcaster Pat Farrell (played by Colm Meaney) as the candidate long past his expiration date and ready for the ax. This sets in motion a series of events that leads Farrell to take the station hostage and use Alan, whom he believes to be an ally, as a mouthpiece to negotiate with police.
While this action-heavy turn of events may seem like a ploy to attract a larger international audience, the production remains true to its British roots throughout, which work in the film's favor at every turn. From the return of television cast members Felicity Montagu as Alan's doggedly loyal assistant, and Tim Key, who remains deadpan as Sidekick Simon, familiar faces abound for the loyal followers. But as the film's title suggests, it all rests squarely on the shoulders of Coogan, who has personified this alter-ego to the point of which we feel he's a flesh-and-blood person. We anticipate the moves he will make (or rather slither out of). And Coogan never disappoints, remaining true to his character’s reptilian roots.
Credit should also go to Armando Iannucci, a returning writer from the I’m Alan Partridge show who has gone to pen the superlative In the Loop as well as the Showtime’s Veep. There is a level of comfort he has with the character that allows him to craft a cinematic surrounding while remaining true to Patridge’s narcissistic roots.
Thankfully, Alpha Papa (to understand the film’s title, you should really watch the teaser trailer), does not befall the dumbed-down Americanization efforts that befell the U.S. version of “The Office,” or the scrubbed-up version of Rowan Atkinson’s beloved “Mr. Bean” character.
The result is a fast-paced barrage of gags (from visual to wordplay to slapstick to satire) that further expands the character and his universe without sacrificing from whence he came in the process. While the plot may put on its big-boy britches to play in Hollywood, Alpha Papa isn't afraid to don its knickers for a laugh.
Review by Rob Rector, Lead Entertainment WriterShare: