Alan Patridge: Alpha Papa (2013)
Director: Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan (A Cock and Bull Story, 24 Hour Party People)
Alan Partridge is 55 years old but, just as a character in the film does, you would be forgiven for thinking he is a little bit older. AP, or Alpha Papa (the phonetic alphabet translation) has actually been in the cultural psyche for just over 20 years, which shows a mastery of either deception or reinvention is at work. Has the character been dragged too far on its laurels? Or is he, amazingly, perpetually relevant? This new release allows us to see.
It could be argued his relevance has increased since his lowly inception. With the ever-encroaching culture of Political Correctness, AP’s comedy touchstones have slowly drifted from the bumbling to the controversial, to cover similar ground to more recent characters such as David Brent, but arguably less predictably. While gags on his TV sitcom ‘I’m Alan Patridge’ may have been more frequently about driving gloves, James Bond and ring-roads, it seems his recent output has been centred more around said PC culture, and such a character’s naivety to it, with, for instance, a joke in Alpha Papa being about his bumbling sexism towards a female police officer ‘in charge’. Thankfully, for Iannuci, Coogan and Co (creators) as well as us, the audience, the character AP was always capable of making such a shift.
So is he still funny? Well, yes. In Alpha Papa, jokes are not the problem. They fly at you thick and fast, good ones as well, for the entire 90 minutes, all stemming from the ludicrous hostage situation ongoing at AP’s new radio haunt; North Norfolk Digital, soon to be re-branded Shape (hence the anger from one of Alan’s colleagues, hence the hostages). But for some hardened AP fans, it just might be this ludicrous plot that lets it down for them. While newcomers to Alan (emerging from their caves of 20 years) may accept the comedy-cum-thriller as a novel way to spend 90 minutes with the character, long-term fans may look into his past and wonder: Where in the rulebook of Alan’s universe did it say such a plot was allowed?
With any adaptation from Television to the cinema, it is important to stay true to the feel of the source material, and while this is the most humdrum, hopeless hostage ever committed to celluloid (which is suitable for Alan), the fact that it’s a siege in the first place may be seen by die-hards to be a step too far into Hollywood. In his previous outings, the most trouble Alan has ever got into is being kidnapped by a crazed fan of his, who has rooms plastered with AP’s face and memorabilia, and even that resolves itself in a hilariously pathetic way (Alan driving away screaming ‘You’re a mentalist!’). So where has this siege come from? To these committed fans, it just may not ‘fit’ him enough.
However, there’s clearly a lot of thought and love that has gone into the film, and it’s worth noting that a movie adaptation of Alan couldn’t just be 90 minutes of him spouting observations while sat in a static caravan (however entertaining that would be), so with that in mind Alpha Papa is often a ‘ruddy’ good rip-roaring ride that zips along to the finish in an entertaining fashion before you can stop laughing.
Summary: Newcomers will accept Alpha Papa at face value and enjoy it immensely, while previous fans may be more skeptical, but after all things are considered, one can’t see this film producing much but laughter in cinemas. Here’s to another 20 years. Jurassic Park.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5