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|Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
dir Declan Lowney
prd Kevin Loader, Henry Normal
scr Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci
with Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Tim Key, Dustin Demri-Burns, Anna Maxwell Martin, Nigel Lindsay, Simon Greenall, Darren Boyd, Sean Pertwee, Phil Cornwell, Monica Dolan
release UK 7.Aug.13
13/UK StudioCanal 1h30
Colossal velocity: Coogan and Key
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Coogan revisits his enduring TV character for a big-screen action-comedy that knowingly skewers British media and culture. More than 20 years after Alan Partridge first appeared in BBC Radio's On the Hour, he's still relentlessly hilarious, deeply embarrassing and completely loveable.
When North Norfolk Digital radio is sold to a corporation and rebranded Shape ("The way you want it to be"), veteran deejay Alan (Coogan) gets his colleague Pat (Meaney) sacked to save his job. Then at the Shape launch party, Pat goes postal, besieging the station and taking hostages. Suddenly Alan is in the negotiating position, playing both sides so he can boost his publicity. Although this might cause problems for Alan's on-air sidekick (Key), his assistant (Montagu) or his dithering security guard friend Michael (Greenall). But as Alpha Papa, Alan's on a mission.
It's astonishing how Coogan disappears into Alan's skin, playfully mixing his metaphors and getting distracted in all kinds of tiny business. It's an eerily seamless performance that creates a believable buffoon: a loser who isn't actually stupid. In this low-fi Die Hard situation, Alan can't quite rise to the challenge. But we love watching him try. Intriguingly for a comedy, there's a real sense of danger, defusing tension with physical comedy.
But it's the dialog that has us paralysed with laughter. Every phrase is funny, as are the pauses and facial expressions inserted by the adept cast. Much of this is character-based humour, springing from each person's specific neurosis. But there's also a lightning-fast stream of amusing references to anything media-related, from Alan's on-air question about which monger is worse (fish, iron, rumour or war?) to his brilliant lip-synching to Roachford's Cuddly Toy (while shouting abuse at other drivers). And that's before the opening titles finish.
The humour also finds depth all along the way, including a frantic phone-in in which callers talk about what was better in the old days or the way Alan gets puffed up because he's all over the TV news ("I am siege face!"). And as the stand-off becomes a major protest against corporate mindlessness, the film hilariously subverts Hollywood action movie cliches at every step. Even the surge of climactic sentimentality is undercut with irony and jagged wit.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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