Norwich was pretty much the centre of the Universe yesterday. The Prodigal Son headed east once more, briefly favouring Anglia Square over Leicester Square to attend the WORLD premiere of his long-awaited big screen debut, Alpha Papa: Alan Partridge.
Wearing an outfit inspired by his hero Roger Moore (Moonraker Bond period), the Veteran TV Broadcaster and North Norfolk Radio Star chatted happily with the huge sunburnt crowd outside Hollywood Cinema, signing autographs and posing for mobile phone photos. In a stirring speech that brought a tear to many an eye, he confessed this film was his ‘love letter to Norwich’.
So what is the film like?
Being a fan of all his previous TV / radio / book outings I was concerned how Alan would make the step up from small to big screen. Worryingly, on the Alpha Papa movie posters he had appeared to have got younger, at the premiere he put this down to a “facial scrape”, and on the question of his longer hair, the answer was “deal with it”. I was really hoping they hadn’t tinkered with the subtleties of what makes Alan such a great comedy character just to make ‘a movie’ or worse, make it more sale-able in America. They have a bit, but thankfully the film isn’t a disappointment, far from it.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and his barefoot / toblerone / Dundee days now seem a long way in the distance. Alpha Papa Alan is a more confident, assertive and dynamic chap and you could say he is almost fully ‘Bounced Back’.
I’m not going to spoil it by giving too much away, but when big business moves in and North Norfolk Digital Radio is to be re-branded as Shape: The Way You Like It, long time DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) becomes surplus to requirements and is shown the door. Disgruntled and depressed Pat takes a shotgun to the Radio Station office party. A hostage situation ensues and the only man trusted to end the drama safely (and at the same time raising his profile) is yours truly, Alpha Papa.
Borrowing the plot from Dog Day Afternoon (relocated to North Norfolk Digital Radio), ex Mid-Morning-Matters writers Neil and Rob Gibbons along with Coogan and long-time Partridge collaborator Armando Iannucci keep the jokes flowing nicely. There are many laugh out loud moments, and Father Ted director Declan Lowney by using mostly hand-held cameras and some action packed set-pieces ensures this feels like a proper ‘movie’ as apposed to just an extended TV episode.
Past ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ characters, Lynne (Felicity Montagu), Travel Tavern handyman/BP garage attendant Michael (Simon Greenall) and DJ Dave Clifton (Phil Cornwell) all reprieve their respective roles brilliantly in the film, so to does the excellent Tim Key as Sidekick Simon from Mid-Morning-Matters. Despite a varied acting career Steve Coogan will always be best loved for Partridge, and it’s hard to think of a better comedy character, full stop.
As a Norfolk resident for the past five years it was great to spot a few local landmarks in the film, including the finale at Cromer Pier and one of the movies funniest moments happens just next to the Forum in Norwich.
It’s not a perfect 10 out of 10, but a very good 8, or more accurately 854 out of 1000 and should be funny enough to keep even the toughest of AP purists happy. If it had gone wrong this movie could have been a nail in the Partridge coffin, as it turns out it could be more of a second coming. If we do see more let’s hope he takes another turn for the worse as the desperation of failure is definitely more amusing than the self-righteousness waft of success.
Wait a year or two and Alpha Papa will be shown on TV every Friday & Saturday night the way Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are now. In the meantime go to your local cinema, buy some popcorn and have a ruddy good laugh.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is released in the UK on 7th August