It’s been just over 20 years since Alan Partridge first broadcast his debut slot hosting Radio 4’s Knowing Me, Knowing You… With Alan Partridge. Since then he has been through TV series, mockumentaries, books, stage shows… It would seem only natural that the next progression was film.
Photo: The Times
Alan Partridge’s ‘love letter to Norwich’ is not unrequited . The city is certainly proud to have him, as the fierce campaign to have the world premiere of the film held in Norwich proved. Steve Coogan, the man behind Partridge, paid his debts to city, turning up in character and acknowledging the campaign: ‘The people have spoken in the biggest petition since the clinic started handing out johnnies to 13-year-olds’.
The uncomfortable heat did not deter fans on the day, packing themselves into every concrete crevice of Anglia Square, which was given the full treatment with a red carpet. Many dressed up (the invitation stated sports casual) and all happily sang along as Knowing Me, Knowing You… blared across the red carpet. Partridge himself turned up in a powder blue safari suit, and indeed he has established himself so well that it’s easy to forget it is Coogan under the wig.
The film takes Partridge back to North Norfolk Digital in his old slot on Mid Morning Matters, but there is trouble brewing in the shape of media conglomerate Shape’s takeover of the station. Resident graveyard slot Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) becomes the first victim of the shakeup and, crushed by his firing, he decides to seek his revenge at the office party. It then falls on Alan to save the situation doing only what he knows best – talking. Acting as police negotiator, Partridge returns to his egocentric best, furiously planning how to exploit his position as local hero of the hostage situation.
There are some familiar faces, including long suffering PA Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and Geordie maverick Michael (Simon Greenall). Tim Key also returns as Alan’s Mid Morning Matters sidekick Simon, providing the humorous exchanges we’ve come to expect from the DJ (‘which is the worst monger? Fish, iron or war?’)
Alpha Papa is everything you could want from Alan Partridge. Retaining all the charm that we are used to from the parochial DJ, its transition onto the big screen is effortless. Running at a neat two hours, the plot is crafted well enough that it does not sag in the middle. The slapstick is subtle, just enough that it’s believable for a character like Alan. There is also a flood of hilarious one-liners to add to his already formidable stock. Director Declan Lowney (of Father Ted fame) ensures that it looks as good as it sounds, with action shots that do the fine city of Norwich proud.
Fans will undoubtedly love it, and there’s enough building of Partridge’s appeal that those unfamiliar with him will find it entertaining as well. Alongside a few unexpected touching moments, it is laugh out loud. Overall, Alpha Papa is a triumph that captures Partridge and Norfolk in all its rustic glory.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is released on 7 August.