Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meeny, Phil Cornwell - Dir: Declan Lowney
The cinematic world is full of TV characters who made it onto the big screen only to go down in flames. Being the star of a thirty minute episodic TV show is a million miles away from making it through a plot-driven ninety minute film that requires things like character development and proper secondary players.

So it’s with great pleasure that I can say Steve Coogan, with his long-running creation Alan Partridge, has absolutely nailed it.

Alan Partridge has a twenty year history behind him, starting as a clueless sports reporter on The Day Today before going solo as a talk show host in Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge. Since then there have been many ups and downs for the inspired creation, but even if none of that means a thing to you the pleasures of watching Alpha Papa will still be manifold.

Here we have Partridge working at a radio station which is about to be “rebranded” as hip and commercial. Threatened with dismissal a fellow DJ cracks and takes the station hostage. AP is brought in as a somewhat reluctant hostage negotiator.

It’s sterling stuff, very funny and comfortably coming to grips with its filmic structure and length. It also stays true to the Alan Partridge we love to hate, allowing him a generous quota of unwittingly vacuous dialogue and plenty of space to riff.

If you’re a fan rejoice; if not, prepare to become one.

Writer/director Richard Curtis attracts both praise and opprobrium for his very English rom-coms, the likes of Notting Hill and Love Actually. About Time is the same, to an even greater degree since it throws into the mix that most dubious of romantic devices – time travel. It’s the story of Tim (Domhall Gleeson) who, on his twenty first birthday, finds that the men in his family can travel back in time. It’s a great advantage in his romance with Rachel McAdams. As much as anything this is a celebration of father-son relationships, not a bad thing if dad is Bill Nighy in full charm mode. Sweet, funny, filled with clever lines and rip-yer-heart-out sentimentality. Richard Curtis at his expert best.

It really should have worked. Robert De Niro as a mobster hiding under witness protection in France, Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife, Tommy Lee Jones as his “minder”. What’s not to like? Unfortunately The Family just wastes the whole thing, director Luc Besson unable to locate any of the expected comedy. And, what with the fish out of water culture clash potential of the family living in France, the character humour potential as De Niro gets delusions of grandeur and starts writing his memoirs and the mob humour potential as old Mafia colleagues send in the the troops, there was plenty. What a shame.  

Mystery Road is a well-made if slightly self-concious Australian thriller. The fact that it attracted such a high-class cast is testament to its intentions, with Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson, Tony Barry and other top Aussies heading an impressive ensemble. The story centres on Aborigine detective Jay (Aaron Pedersen) returning to his isolated home town to investigate the death of an indigenous girl, which leads towards a web of drug-related corruption. It’s good stuff, beautifully shot, slow and thoughtful, if occasionally a little heavy-handed in its cultural examination. 

Gambit was once a sparkling sixties heist comedy starring Michael Caine and an effervescent Shirley MacLaine; now it’s a heavy-handed retread with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz. He’s an art curator, she’s a Texas cowgirl he enlists to help sell an obnoxious wealthy collector (Alan Rickman) a fake Monet. The script is from the Coen brothers but, as far as I’m aware, was an old commission job that sat on a shelf for a long time. With good reason. The light frothy formula for movies of this sort is devilishly tricky to nail and this film almost completely fails to do so.   


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