Review: Alan Partridge

Director Declan Lowney’s film operates from a conceit that affords only minor opportunities for true hilarity.

Alan Partridge
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Steve Coogan brings his fictional U.K. radio and TV personality to our shores with Alan Partridge, a wannabe-zany comedy that’s unlikely to win him many new ardent American admirers. The titular character’s first big-screen outing revolves around his small-town Norfolk radio station being taken over by a giant media titan and rebranded for younger audiences with hip jingles and a wacky twentysomething “breakfast”-show host. That change of ownership spells doom for archaic Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), a DJ who’s too uncool to survive the transition and is thus promptly sacked—with, crucially, some help from Partridge himself, a fast-talking buffoon whose arrogance is matched only by his clownishness. Despite convincing his bosses to get rid of Farrell, Partridge soon finds himself as the liaison between Farrell and the police once the fired DJ takes his former co-workers hostage, leading to numerous bits punctuated by Partridge delivering cocky bon mots, goofily failing to snatch Farrell’s there-for-the-taking shotgun, and falling out of a bathroom window and, while upside down, sliding out of his pants, where he’s promptly photographed tucking his genitals between his legs by waiting paparazzi.

Despite its nominal plot about the clash between local and corporate businesses, as well as between old- and new-school media models, Alan Partridge only really cares about Coogan’s absurd antics, and the actor is in predictably fine form. Whether hosting call-in segments in which listeners name the smells they’d most miss after a chemical attack, treating his on-air sidekick Simon (Tim Key) with a mentor’s mixture of contempt and support, or seeking the help of devoted minder Lynn (Felicity Montagu), Partridge is a nitwit whose hunger for fame and cowardice in the face of danger are regularly mocked for laughs. Unfortunately, though, director Declan Lowney’s film operates from a conceit that affords only minor opportunities for true hilarity; when Coogan isn’t riffing about with reckless non-sequitur abandon, the film more or less grinds to a standstill. Replete with a subtitle, Alpha Papa, that makes no sense until a final-scene visual gag that lands with a dud, it’s a comedy that seems to have been concocted not just in haste, but in the mistaken belief that tossing off enough one-liners—no matter how sharp—can compensate for a narrative that just feels tossed off.

 Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key, Nigel Lindsay, Monica Dolan  Director: Declan Lowney  Screenwriter: Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons  Distributor: Magnolia Pictures  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: R  Year: 2013  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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