The best way to transfer a sitcom or sketch comedy character from television to the movies is to change nothing. The best examples of tv characters starring in decent movies is when the film serves as an extended version of the television show they came from, nothing too extravagant, nothing too unusual or different from what people watched, week to week, on the small screen.
The Inbetweeners movie and Borat are examples of how to do this correctly, Ali G Indahouse and Kevin and Perry Go Large are examples of how to do this poorly. Luckily, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa fits into the first category, comfortably.
The key is that the situation, although much more extreme than anything Alan Partridge has faced in his many tv shows, is nothing too far-fetched and too departed from what we would expect from the Norwich based DJ. This is more of an extended adventure for the character rather than a huge, grand departure from the tv series. If you compare a small siege at his local, digital radio station to the forgotten ideas of “Partridge vs Terrorists” or “Partridge saves The President,” you can soon see how good an idea it was to stay as close to the characters roots as possible.
That means that what we get is a familiar but welcome story, with amazing lines, awkward but hilarious situations and “classic Alan.” The movie is full of quotable lines and key moments that will have you chuckling to yourself long after you’ve seen the movie and may find themselves entering popular (British) culture when the movie has been seen by a wider audience.
Whether it would appeal to anyone that is unfamiliar with Alan Partridge is another matter but this was a movie designed to piggyback on the success and legacy of the character and for any long-term fans, everything you want and know about Partridge is here. For the long-term fans we get a welcome return from put-upon Lynn and Geordie Michael and for the more recent additions to the Partridge fan club, Sidekick Simon is present and correct, as is the setting of North Norfolk Digital.
In fact, aside from the constant stream of politically incorrect, incoherent and misunderstood uttering that Steve Coogan’s most famous character comes out with, Sidekick Simon, played by Tim Keys, is the surprise of the movie. He gets some of the best lines, perfectly finishing a tense scene or adding the comedy cherry to an already very funny scene.
The comedy comes from anywhere and everywhere though. Steve Coogan plays Partridge so naturally that he is faultless and there are plenty of classic moments but its to the returning characters, like Felicity Montagu’s Lynn or Simon Greenhall’s Michael, who really impress by slipping seamlessly back into character and bringing the same magic that they brought in the original series.
The movie is also ably supported by newer characters and no more so than Colm Healey, who plays the key to the story, the gun-wielding hostage taker, Pat Farrell. It’s that central story that further develops the success of the movie. It’s not just Alan stumbling from situation to situation but a “plausible” scenario that places him as a pinnacle center to the whole story. We see him triumph, fail, triumph, fail and so on, throughout the narrative of the film and its all done in classic Alan style. It wouldn’t be possible to fit it all into a half hour episode but it isn’t so grand and different that you couldn’t have seen it on “I’m Alan Partridge” when that was on tv over ten years ago.
Its not without its faults but the movie gets by on the charm and the hit rate of the jokes. Not every moment is hilarious and some of it does become a bit silly but that is more than made up for by the jokes that do land being hilariously funny and reminiscent of the Alan Partridge that was on our tv screens.
Overall, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa demonstrates how to take a successful tv character and put him on the big screen. The whole movie is “classic Alan,” from the ridiculous phrases, clumsy and idiotic actions of Partridge himself and the returning characters that we haven’t seen properly for ten years. It’s a very funny movie and a must see for any Partridge fans.
Rating – 9.0
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)