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Steve Coogan’s radio and television character persona brings the best of modern British comedy to the silver screen for 90 minutes of non-stop hilarity.

What started in 1991 as a character in the BBC radio show “On the Hour” has lived on in a surprisingly consistent style throughout the years in British comedy. Steve Coogan originally created the character of Alan Partridge along with Armando Iannucci as a parody sports radio personality. The character has appeared in numerous radio and television parodies, shows, and most notably in the series “Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge,” the focal point of the feature film originally released overseas in August 2013 as “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” (a joke you’ll get by the end of the movie). The States finally got a limited release this past April, showing on no more than 22 screens at its zenith.
The story begins at North Norfolk Station in Norwich, England, as it is being taken over (excuse me, swiftly acquired) by a major media corporation, immediately overhauled, and rebranded as Shape radio. This ostentatious overhaul occurs during the aforementioned “Mid Morning Matters” show with Alan and his trusty co-commentator Simon making their trademark jokes before setting the stage for veteran jock Pat (Colm Meaney). Pat immediately expresses his fear for the new executives and paranoia of losing his job in the cutbacks.

While coping with the changes afoot, Alan walks into a meeting of the new fat cat bosses in his classic bumbling British comic style. Although Alan’s hope is that the station will stay the same, he glimpses a staff roster with his and Pat’s names circled in red. Fearing termination, Alan makes a clumsy effort to sway the board’s decision, resulting in a sign that reads “Just sack Pat.” Pat is subsequently laid off immediately, setting the stage for the main story of this adventure for our hero.

During a launch party for the new station, a disgruntled Pat enters the station with a double barrel shotgun and a bandolier of rounds. A few gunshots later, the movie picks up with locomotive speed and confronts Pat’s psychosis with typical police involvement. Alan is thrown back into the mix as an unlikely hostage negotiator, since he is the only one Pat will speak to.

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An unlikely faux partnership forms as Alan grants Pat’s wish to have his job back by going on the air with him and a tied up Simon, whose role essentially goes from sidekick material to a null foil. The main duo’s antics include moderately unsafe shotgun play, comedic hostage engagement, and title character trademarks complete with delusions of heroics and superhuman feats.

Pat grows mad with power as his demands to be reinstated are forcibly executed by the captive staff. They even re-record his sound bytes and clips from the old show which were deleted during the takeover.

Eventually, the situation becomes so overblown that it is national news. Supporters of Pat’s show come out of the woodwork to hail their hero’s work while not entirely disregarding the fact that he has kidnapped a dozen people at gunpoint with the only exchange to be his return to the airwaves. Alan even begins to feel the sting of stardom as he becomes a national hero for keeping Pat at bay as the unlikely protector of the station.

 

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As plans continue to go awry, the police take action with an undercover pizza delivery that leads into the movie’s final act. The heart of the story comes to light as Pat gets to see all of his fans picketing for his freedom and return to the air, with Alan struggling to find his own way out of the hole he began digging for himself at the onset of the film.

There’s no doubt about it, you get what you pay for in this feature length story which could have easily been a miniseries on TV, not unlike the TV movies and special appearances that have preceded it. Had it been anything other than what it is, this yarn would be as dead in the water as a Crystal Lake camper.

However, the cast has fun with their roles. While the comedic situations that arise might seem textbook and at times tedious, the stars shine in their satiric portrayals. Coogan is exceptional and in prime form as one of his most antiquated and yet not outdated characters. As far as movies based on television and radio serials go, this one certainly stands out, and is perfect fanfare for followers of the genre.

-Herbert M. Shaw

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Herbert M. Shaw began writing movie reviews for his high school newspaper and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, his radio program "The Shaw Report" was started with WCDB Albany 90.9 FM in Albany, New York, and lives on with online streaming at www.wcdbfm.com. In addition to film and TV reviews, Herbert also covers a variety of pop culture events surrounding technology, gaming, and the arts. He has covered every single New York Comic Con since 2006, and writes an annual Oscar prediction guide.