To take a much loved British sitcom and transport it to the silver screen is always an unenviable risk and many have seen their best efforts fail in the past. How do you stay true to the qualities of the series so as not to lose your fan base but create enough interest and intrigue for cinema-goers who aren’t as familiar? It would be too easy to get carried away writing a narrative which could become too distanced, alienating the audience altogether. In recent years, screenwriters have proved it can work with the biggest notable success of late being The Inbetweeners Movie which saw the four hapless teens embark on their first lad’s holiday to Malia. This year, beloved face for North Norfolk radio, Alan Partridge portrayed by the brilliant Steve Coogan, has been called up for his cinema debut over a decade after the regular television series although he has made numerous guest appearances since then. When a firm of suits step in to take over Alan’s beloved station, the hierarchy is restructured leaving Partridge caught up in a hilariously gripping siege after a former colleague DJ Pat Farrell hits out against the corporation.
The secret to Alpha Papa’s success is the admirable lack of plot ambition, as it stays in Alan’s home city of Norwich throughout. By not getting carried away with a complex narrative and staying loyal to its origins, it shows more ambition in relying on the setting as the backdrop of a feature rather than the standard half an hour slot, and the time is filled well without overstaying its welcome. Visually, there is a noticeable step up though, with Alan taking on a strangely hipper attire than previous years with a nods to his touched up image in the script. It is shot well, and the action sequences are sharply edited giving a deserved cinematic upgrade. The humour is much the same as in the television series with blink-or-you’ll-miss-it gags crammed in, Coogan brimming with charisma and lapping up the resurrection of his best creation. The jokes are frequent, and often brilliant, with numerous laugh out loud moments particularly in the first half of the film. As it develops, there is less natural opportunity for trademark one-liners and for me, he is always best relaxed on air interacting awkwardly with his listeners. Supporting cast all hold their own with Tim Key as the highlight as sidekick Simon while Felicity Montagu and Simon Greenall offer nostalgia as Lynn and Michael the Geordie respectively.
If you didn’t like the show originally then I advise that you stay well clear as this is one for the fans, and is a real treat for the cult following it has. Coogan impresses without overdoing it, flexing his acting chops once again after a run of big screen performances this year following the magnificent What Maisie Knew and Winterbottom’s The Look of Love with whom he has worked with on more than one occasion in the past. So now that we know Alan Partridge still works as a character, still as funny as he ever was and adapting with the times, will this spawn another film, or perhaps new series? Or should he quit while he is ahead, leaving this as a fond and fitting farewell to a true gem of British comedy? Either way, this is a worthy addition to the back catalogue.