The once-popular radio and television performer has hit harder times and works as a DJ, hosting the Mid Morning Matters show on North Norfolk Digital Radio. A corporate conglomerate, Gordale Media, has recently purchased the radio station and, as corporations do, plan to let some of the talent go. The man must use all his wiles to keep his job, even if it means sacrificing his friend and fellow DJ, Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). This proves to be the wrong thing to do for “Alan Partridge.”
Alan Partridge, the fictional, television-stardom-aspiring DJ, was the brainchild of Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci back in 1991 and, for nearly a quarter of a century, has entertained all of the United Kingdom. With “Alan Partridge,” Coogan’s ironic sense of humor and deft comic timing is set to catapult his alter ego to international fame. At least, that is what Alan Partridge hopes will happen. (The lines blur between Alan being a pure work of fiction and a real person. Let us call it pure Steve Coogan.)
The tale of how a corporate takeover and the machinations of Alan to keep his job are the catalyst for the mad-man-takes-over-the-radio-station-and-holds-everyone-hostage-after-losing-his-job story, with a twist: Alan Partridge. Steve Coogan fully embodies his character and, as we watch, we see Alan, not Steve. The versatile Coogan is always funny and is at his best in “Alan Partridge.” Colm Meaney is terrific as the not-as-mad-as-you-think Pat Farrell and his scenes with Coogan are always funny, even when darkly edgy. The rest of the cast is mostly unknown to American audiences but all are first rate as the hostages and cops that inhabit the “situation.”
Director Declan Lowney and his team create a fast-paced (well, the big chase is the slowest, and most amusing, I have ever seen), nicely photographed comedy that showcases its star. I imagine a follow up will come soon but do not wait for the sequel. “Alan Partridge” is well worth the cost of admission for all who appreciate a good comedy, not just Alan Partridge fans. I give it a B.
Over twenty years ago, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan, "Philomena") got his start on his home town radio show at North Norfolk Digital. After peaking with his own TV chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Partridge's career went into a tailspin, taking him right back where he started, hosting Mid-Morning Matters. When the station is bought out by a conglomerate who rename the station Shape ('the way you want it to be'), Partridge throws his late night colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney, "Get Him to the Greek") under the bus. Farrell doesn't take his layoff lightly, taking the new owners hostage during a staff launch party and the man the unsuspecting DJ wants to be his conduit to the police is none other than "Alan Partridge."
Many Americans only know Steve Coogan from his supporting roles in independent films (and a couple of more mainstream ones like "Tropic Thunder" and "The Other Guys"), but the British comedian/actor/writer is most well known in his own country for his long lived obnoxious entertainer, who once inadvertently killed one of his own guest during a taping. With "Alan Partridge," Coogan brings him to the movie screen for the first time and the results are hilarious, even with no prior exposure to the character. With a cast that includes support from players old (Partridge's ever loyal assistant/mother figure Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and sidekick Simon (Tim Key)) and new (Meaney, new boss Jason Tresswell (Nigel Lindsay, "Four Lions"), Coogan and cowriters Neil and Rob Gibbons, along with the great Armando Iannucci ("In the Loop," HBO's 'Veep'), jump off from their 'Mid-Morning Matters' webisode series to place Partridge's career in jeopardy once again.
Coogan takes to the airwaves with Simon (after a mocking intro from hipper a.m. DJ Danny Sinclair (Dustin Demri-Burns)) to posit such questions as 'Which is the worst monger? fish, rumor or war?' for his call-in audience. Off the air he's been trying to sidle up to office administrator Angela (Monica Dolan, "Sightseers") with encouraging results. Partridge seems content, driving about town in his Kia sponsored car and keeping the ever vigilant Lynn in her place. But when news of the takeover spreads, Alan crashes a meeting to make his case and when he spies a notepad indicating its either him or Pat who'll get the axe, he turns on his heel.
Having left the Shape party unable to make himself the center of attention, shots go off inside and a panicked Alan lands in the police station where he quickly finds himself suited up in bullet proof gear. Terrified but unable to admit it, Alan ventures back in to find Pat armed and friendly - to him at least. And as the crisis escalates, Alan finds a new opportunity to become a media star once again.
Coogan's generous enough to spread around the humor, Simon affixed to his seat by Pat with a shotgun holster made of a paper towel roll and duct tape throughout so Key can milk the line 'I've got a handle on it,' Lynn made over for a television news appearance which Alan finds horribly over-reaching. Meaney's just great as the small time, folksy DJ incensed that he wasn't allowed to say good-bye to his audience - he's lovable with enough of a hair-trigger edge to make the danger real (and watch out when he learns who betrayed him). But above all this is Coogan's show, of course, and the actor rolls out not only some delicious lines ('Oh no, not again,' after a wild shot hits a poster of Kennedy, then using a Susan Boyle poster as a site corrector), but some surprising physical comedy (two escapes - one through a window, another in a Septic tank). One of the great things Coogan does with his ambitious, self-absorbed, offensive, cowardly and not-as-bright-as-he-thinks-he-is character is make him capable of guilt and regret, always keeping us holding out for his redemption. When somebody *else* insults Lynn, his reaction is actually moving.
Movies have featured DJs ("Talk Radio," "Talk to Me"), radio sieges ("Airheads") and pirate radio (um, "Pirate Radio") before. "Alan Partridge" does all three, climaxing with a mobile show hosted by none other Alan and Pat throughout the streets of Norwich that ends with a gun fight on Cromer Pier. The film wraps on a perfect note, a compassionate Partridge distracted by his own, newfound self satisfaction. (A sequel has just been announced.)
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