New Indie Thursday: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Premiere - London

I first encountered Steve Coogan when he starred in the picture 24 Hour Party People back in college. I was fascinated by Joy Division at the time, so I consumed a rapid amount of media in conjunction with this band. When I watched 24 Hour Party People, I was immediately drawn to Steve Coogan and his fascinating portrayal of Joy Division’s manager, Tony Wilson. He was hilarious, raw and just plain good. So once the movie was done, I hopped on IMDb (per usual) and looked up what else this funny character actor had done. One name stood out (this was before he did a whole of stuff in Hollywood, so it was able to stick out more than it does now): Alan Partridge. As a fan of weird comedy, I put all of his Knowing Me, Knowing You discs on Netflix and stumbled through them as I alternately cringed and laughed my butt off. Alan Partridge was such a terrible person yet in his terribleness made everything absolutely hilarious that I was bummed when I had burned through Knowing Me, Knowing You and I’m Alan Partridge. (As Alan Partridge was popular with both me and my boyfriend, we have rented it many times at our old video store to the point where if I thought hard about it, I could probably quote some lines from it. It is our favorite hobby to replay comic shows like that.) I wanted more Alan Partridge. More than he was willing to give me… Until this year. Imagine my surprise when I started up Netflix on my big screen and saw Alan Partridge (or really Steve Coogan, but let’s be honest, he is better as Alan Partridge) staring at me. I was psyched. A continuation of the downfall of the great talk show host Alan Partridge, starring the original and made with some great British and Irish character actors? Seems like a slam dunk… Unfortunately it is not.

Alan Partridge has slid down the totem pole onto a talk radio station in the middle of England provinces. He hosts a show with an incompetent side kick (who he keeps interrupting and making snide remarks to…) and makes terrible puns before introducing songs. His fellow radio DJs include a bunch of shock jocks and a quiet Irish man who hosts an international music hour. The station gets bought by a conglomerate and wants to remake its image. The Irishman (Pat) looses his job after Partridge tells the board of trustees to fire Pat over himself. Pat snaps and takes the station hostage. Only Partridge can save his fellow radio DJs from a pent-up Pat.

For the first third of the movie, Partridge is in perfect form. The awkward humor is the highlight of almost every scene and Steven Coogan seems to really be enjoying himself. But the moment that Pat takes over the station, the movie devolves into Tropic Thunderitsis. (Tropic Thunder was great for about the first third to half, but ends up being boring by the end of it.) The story is just a series of clichés and boring plot twists that you see coming a million miles away. Comedy lies in subverting plot conventions, not with enforcing them. Partridge is no longer the focus and the movie suffers because of that. There are still some funny moments (like the duct tape hat Pat makes for Partridge’s side kick so that he can easily slip his shotgun in and hold it against his temple but still be able to move around the sound booth), but they are minimal. It is mostly Partridge’s awkward relationship with Pat which produces less jokes than you think it would. Unfortunately I think we need to wait until Steve Coogan wants to do another series to get some really great Partridge jokes again.

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