Editor’s Notes: Alan Partridge is out on DVD, BLU-RAY and VOD - June 10th
I have to assume that if you’ve clicked through to this full review you are British, a longtime Alan Partridge fan, adore Steve Coogan, love British comedy, or all of the above. In our culture of studio sanctioned do-overs, there are plenty of British shows that get the American treatment, and few slip by unscathed. Perhaps it is their innate British-ness, that dry wit that beguiles the rabid consumers of Two and Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Regardless of the reason, Alan Partridge is far from recognizable to the masses outside of her Majesty’s purview, and based on this film, that has been entirely our loss.
Alan Partridge is far from recognizable to the masses outside of her Majesty’s purview, and based on this film, that has been entirely our loss.
North Norfolk Digital, the local radio station of Norwich, has been purchased by corporate bigwigs. In addition to rebranding the station as Shape, the new leaders are looking to make some changes to their roster of disc jockeys. Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is particularly concerned about his job due to his older age and audience. He enlists the help of fellow DJ Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) to ensure his continued employment. However, perpetual narcissist Alan, loses control of the meeting and ends up securing his “friend’s” dismissal. Unfortunately for the employees of Shape, Pat doesn’t take the news as well as he could have.
Before I sat down to watch this film, I barely knew who Alan Partridge was. I knew that it was Steve Coogan’s breakout role, and that the character was a bit of a twat (British people say twat, right?). I had not seen any of his television shows or specials. Admittedly, my knowledge of Alan Partridge consisted of pictures and hearsay. I tell you this to offer you my perspective, when in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. Alan Partridge is just plain funny. While assuredly there are some jokes within the film that will work best for the Partridge faithful, for the most part the film doesn’t really care whether you know who the guy is or not. There is a sense of a need to play catch up, as the film quickly thrusts you right into the proceedings, but this is unnecessary. Forget any preconceived notions as to who the character is, or even the world he is playing in. Approach the film like you would any other, it’ll get you where you need to go.
If only more filmmakers wrote characters with as much grace and confidence as those within Alan Partridge. Little to no time is wasted on unnecessary exposition. Instead, the writers trust the audience to be able to put the pieces together and stay on track.
If only more filmmakers wrote characters with as much grace and confidence as those within Alan Partridge. Little to no time is wasted on unnecessary exposition. Instead, the writers trust the audience to be able to put the pieces together and stay on track. The writing possesses a grounded knowledge of its characters. This informed foundation allows the characters to propel the story forward, rather than in service to a cumbersome plot. It is actually quite impressive just how confident Declan Lowney directs the film. There are certain beats that a lesser director would feel obligated to play out, but Lowney doesn’t have time for them. In essence, the creative team behind Alan Partridge ignore anything that they could be told about what a film should be. They instead have focused on creating a world with fantastic characters, all while juggling high and lowbrow humor with an ease that would impress the members of Cirque du Soleil.
Sticking with this anarchistic sensibility, the film strongly places its lead character’s name as the title. As well they should, since this is without a doubt a film about Partridge. Alan Partridge is an exceptional narcissist, although he is unable to provide any appreciable reasoning to substantiate his unbridled confidence. Within minutes of meeting the character it is apparent, and the writers never lose sight of this. All of his actions are for himself, which allows the character to be just unlikable enough to be laughed at. Coogan’s familiarity and comfort in the character shines through. The supporting characters all contribute to their own special moments, but this film lives and dies by Coogan. He is Partridge, and even the most outlandish of actions play authentically.
Despite the confidence with which the world is built and the characters established, the plot exists as a minor contrivance to the filmmakers. The reasoning for the events is weak at best, and often the story they have chosen to tell is worn like an ill-fitting pair of pants. There is an electricity in the interactions between characters, however when they are forced to return to servicing the plot, the film is deflated of its momentum. It should then come as little surprise that the film’s ending is underwhelming and a bit formulaic. As the film progresses through its final beats, the audience is left caring little for what actually comes of its central duo. For all of the sympathy we have for Pat, it cannot overcome just how dark he has decided to go. It makes the film uneven. Alan Partridge is an intelligent comedy that is unafraid to go blue. Nevertheless, for all the laughs it brings, it never manages to feel like a completely successful feature. In the end, Alan Partridge will make you laugh, but it has a hard time handling a plot that is never as interesting or complete as its characters.
The supporting characters all contribute to their own special moments, but this film lives and dies by Coogan. He is Partridge, and even the most outlandish of actions play authentically.