Even though Alan Partridge (aka comedian Steve Coogan) is quite big in the UK, as a Yank I haven’t been privy to the character. First impression sets him somewhere in the Steven Colbert / Ron Burgundy vicinity if either one of them were a boorish DJ who was self-aware of his own irrelevance, and generally a buffoon and insensitive clod. As such, the titular movie about him, Alan Partridge (previously Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) is a romp filled with sharp humor, probably more than a bit of improv and Coogan’s distinctive characterization. In reality, Partridge is a multimedia meta-star in Blighty, having been portrayed by Coogan on radio, TV and in documentary. In his film, he’s a local DJ struggling to hang onto his job when his radio station is purchased by a large corporation that’s looking to make some changes.
One of the changes is whether or not to axe Partridge or his colleague, Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). Partridge discovers just how small a thread his career is hanging by when he crashes a board meeting and sees that it’s either him or Pat. So he passively aggressively but expeditiously tosses his mate under the bus to save his own neck, which is ironic, considering he had gone into the meeting to do precisely the opposite. Pat doesn’t take the sacking well and returns later with a shotgun to take hostages and make demands. The only one he’ll deal with is Partridge, which sets him right in the middle of things. At first reluctant, Partridge soon realizes the ratings bonanza that’s fallen in his lap. He then has to balance his own ambition with the welfare of the hostages, whose interests occasionally get in the way of Partridge’s opportunity.
The film is a long series of gags featuring Partridge’s fast and furious banter, usually about subjects completely tangential to the issue at hand. Coogan is often hilarious portraying Partridge as an occasionally (fairly occasionally) well-meaning miscreant who has trouble seeing beyond his own needs at any given moment. Partridge is very enjoyable as a character, even if he isn’t that great a human being. Shallow, petty, self-absorbed, egotistical with no collateral whatsoever to back that ego up, Coogan gives him great service here. Supporting cast is roundly good as well, particularly the always welcome Colm Meaney and also Sean Pertwee, who isn’t in this nearly enough. This is a very British comedy in flavor. Existing Partridge / Coogan fans should have no problem eating this movie up. The uninitiated will quickly become converts. Alan Partridge is a very fun and funny movie.
Alan Partridge is from Magnolia Pictures, is available now on iTunes and OnDemand and will be in theatres on April 4, 2014.