Monday, 12 August 2013

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Film Review)

There are some reboots you don't want to see happen or just don't need to happen. Sometimes after a show is gone for so long or is given to the wrong creative team, it ends up being just a cringe-worthy footnote on the franchise's name. This can all too easily be the case with film adaptations, yet despite being almost perfectly set up for failure Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa proves to be a success.

Following on from last year's specials, the film focuses upon a recent corporate takeover of the independent radio station Alan works at in Norfolk. Already concerned about bring pushed out of the limelight by younger radio talents and off to a bad start with his new bosses, Alan ends up throwing his lifelong co-worker Pat Farrell under the bus to keep his job. This backfires horribly when Farrell returns with a vengeance, having snapped and taken half the station hostage with a shotgun.
With the police trying to use him to negotiate with Farrell and the hostage-taker clearly out of his mind, Alan finds the situation might have been exactly what he needs to rise back to stardom...

The film's foremost strength as a comedy is its ability to play with expectations. The plot repeatedly takes turns no one would guess and it keeps the audience interested until the end. While one or two certain set-ups do pay off as expected, others exist either only as red herrings or purely as comedy. How well does it play with expectations? They include Sean Pertwee within the film and don't kill him. Despite the scenario, the hostage situation is used more as an excuse to reel in as many jokes as possible while maintaining only the most basic narrative drive. The vast majority of jokes are built around the plot rather than into it, which does fit with the style of the usual Alan Partridge series.

More often than not the gags presented are built upon the personalities of the characters than the situation in question, often at their expense. This works especially well with Steve Coogan as he's obviously in his element here, playing off of Partridge's many faults and issues at every turn for more and more jokes. Despite his record and involvement in a few abysmally dire films, the man is excellent when it comes to combining physical and verbal comedy. Playing off odd verbal ticks and mannerisms with excellent timing meaning every time he's on screen, which is near continuously, you're in for something great.

This praise for Coogan isn't to sell the rest of the cast short, with many involved showing great timing and delivery in just about every joke. Colm Meaney especially deserves praise for his dark turn As Farrell and balancing out the completely friendly/temperamentally violent aspects so many jokes are hinged upon. Unfortunately while many of the actors are great, a huge number of the characters do feel very superfluous and unnecessary. Even the figures set up as the real villains, causing Farrell's turn and initially appearing to be Alan's enemy are only tangentially connected to the plot. They are never at the centre of events and removing many of those stuck with them wouldn't have changed the film in the slightest.

A further issue exists in that, while the comedy is great, by the film's end very little feels as if it has truly been changed or resolved. Many points either fade into the background or are never really resolved turning a great start into a largely forgetful ending. This problem is only compiled with the decent humour veering into low key slapstick more than once. While by no means the vulgar kind you'd find in Keith Lemon, thank the high heavens, it lacks the charm or quirks which made other parts so enjoyable. Particularly standout moments are when Alan loses his trousers for little to no reason, and is at risk of being urinated on.

The only part which is truly hard to decide upon is the camerawork, which is at its best in tight enclosed spaces. Scenes such as the initial siege of the radio station and races within the corridors are well controlled and feature a kind of kinetic energy which works extremely well with the comedy. As does the scenes where single objects are the focus of events. When it comes to the outdoors or less enclosed areas however, many shots feel far more generic or not as well handled. With the film's conclusion being set in the outdoors that's another mark against it.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is flawed but it has its heart in the right place. Again, the film could have easily gone very wrong but here it comes out fairly well on the whole, with only the conclusion being botched. After considering all things, this comedy is reccomended to anyone after a good laughter film. Even if you're not too familiar with the character, watching one or two of his scenes on youtube should be all you need to have any grounding, with the film providing the rest. Definitely take the time to watch this one if you're after a comedy, just don't expect it to stay in your mind to the same degree as The World's End.


  1. There is one rule for writing reviews. Just one. It doesn't matter how minor or insignificant, you must never fucking spoil any portion of the plot. ESPECIALLY when that something plays with audience expectations. Sean Pertwee's character doesn't die? Yeah, thanks for that. You're putting your capability of recognising a pattern in Sean Pertwee films ahead of your review. It's an ego thing, even if it is subconscious - "Look at me, I've seen enough films to know that Sean Pertwee has a death scene in a lot of the ones he's in". As a reader I expect you to already have such knowledge, and not have to flaunt it. Expunge your ego to elevate yourself from the amateur.

    1. No, what it was is a joke. One about a subject everyone I have spoken to seems to be aware of and about an actor with no major role within the film.
      My apologies if that went over your head.

      Also, please note that were I so driven to avoid spoilers to the degree you desire I would barely be able to speak about the film. I would not be able to give a synopsis of early events, talk about certain failings or jokes or characters nor praise sections which work. I generally make a point of avoiding spoiling anything beyond the early first act, but some minor elements do need to be talked about in order to give an accurate analysis of the film's quality.

  2. I knew the basic premise of Alpha Papa was a siege scenario. I knew Sean Pertwee was going to be in the film. I have seen many Sean Pertwee features. It was safe to assume his character would die. To have this expectation of Pertwee's character's death dashed has taken some of the delight of the film away.

    I agree, minor elements of the film do need to be described to give an accurate analysis. But there is a line. If you're going to review a film YOU as reviewer have to know where that line is. In this instance, you didn't.

    1. So let me understand this correctly: You lob insults about me flaunting my film knowledge and showing off when I am aware of Pertwee dying in many films, yet when you display that same knowledge it carries none of those implications.

      Let me make this clear: He plays a background character in this with a dozen lines at the most. Were he someone major I would not comment upon his fate or turning points. I made a joke this time because, quite frankly, his character is so minor to the plot he often fades into the background.

      I apologise for your irritation over this, but next time please just say you are angered at not being able to enjoy seeing him die on screen again. Don't try to dress it up in accusations of unprofessionalism, inability to write or showing off knowledge.