nuts spoilers* First of all, Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge franchise is hugely popular in the UK, though not so much in the US, so you may feel that if you haven’t seen the television series, heard the radio show, or read the book, you should not bother with the feature-length film because there is too much in the canon that you need to know to enjoy the film. You would be wrong. The 2013 film Alan Partridge, or Alpha Papa as it’s called in the UK, was created to be just as accessible to Partridge n00bs as to dedicated fans.
Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is a long-time broadcaster, currently at a local Norfolk radio station that is being bought and re-branded by a large corporation. As light-hearted and ridiculous as the film gets at times, it is still largely a statement on corporate takeover and the voices of local businesses. You don’t usually find real-life situations that give you the opportunity to see what your local disc jockeys are made of, so Alan Partridge lets you live out those curiosities in a bizarre revenge tale. It’s also a comment on mid-life crises and what it’s like being 50+ and having the young, hip world around you rip your values and status out from under you. (Interestingly, Coogan is not yet 50.) The jockeys, coming to terms with the suckiness of this situation, host an episode dedicated to “things that were better in the old days.”
When Partridge fears he will be the one sacked by the new suits, he throws his fellow broadcaster, sweet Irish widower Pat (Colm Meaney), under the bus. Of course, Alan never expected Pat to crack and show up at the company party with a shotgun and start duct-taping guns to his hostages’ heads. Pat, unaware his friend was the instigator in his termination, takes Alan on as the mediator with the police. Alan spends the movie tip-toeing around the sensitivity of Pat, the frayed nerves of the hostages, and the itchy trigger fingers of the police (including Darren Boyd as the negotiator). A hostage situation with a madman in a radio suite lends itself to all sorts of hilarious hi-jinks, including Pat rebelliously playing music on the radio that is not on his approved songs list and forcing his dozen hostages to re-record his erased jingle tracks in one hour or he’ll start shooting. But you never lose sight of the danger. Without seeing the moments where Pat beats the shit out of his corporate hostages and watching them shake as he holds the gun to them, you would lose the movie to silly fluff moments.
I thought I would have difficultly getting into Partridge because he’s generally meant to be an asshole. However, the writers go to great lengths to keep him human and vulnerable. He often exposes too many emotional details about his personal life accidentally. But, Alan has a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to his personality, where if his ego gets stroked even slightly, he puffs up like a [insert interchangeable bird species here], and the ego takes over. When he’s negotiating with the police on the front lawn, he winds up pandering to the fans on the sidelines. But it doesn’t come without a price. The egotistical Hyde version of Partridge is also more incompetent, and visions of money and stardom distract him enough to get him locked outside the studio with no pants on. Hey, I never said the movie was high-brow. As you see in the trailer, there’s even a scene inside a toilet–and I don’t mean toilet in the British terminology where they say toilet instead of bathroom, I mean inside a toilet.