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Alan Partridge | Review

Alpha Comedian: a Partridge in a Fair Tree

Alan Partridge PosterSteve Coogan is known to North American audiences as the successful writer and lead actor of Philomena, scene stealer in Tropic Thunder, and perhaps for his body of work with Michael Winterbottom at the helm. As Alan Partridge? Not so much. Yet across the pond, the wildly popular character has been featured for over twenty years on every media platform from TV shows to radio and web snippets. Thus, it seems to be a natural progression for Coogan to adapt his egomaniacal alter ego to a feature length treatment via a (mostly) television director in Declan Lowney. While the film produces more than a few rip roaringly funny set-pieces, on this side of the Atlantic, this is nothing more than a comedic trifle to audiences new to the impudent character.

The film finds Partridge, having previously lost his prestigious national talk show, working as a radio morning show host in his seedy hometown of North Norfolk. The radio station, however, is in the midst of being taken over by a massive media conglomerate. In a fateful turn of events, management (a thinly-veiled Clear Channel stand-in) informs Partridge that due to cutbacks they will be firing either him or his fellow DJ (and one of his steadfast allies) Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). In his typical arrogant and self preserving fashion, Partridge convinces them to swiftly sack his colleague, which leads to the emotionally fragile Farrell holding the station hostage at gunpoint. Shortly thereafter the local police uses Partridge as a negotiator and mediator between themselves and loose cannon Farrell, which inevitably goes awry.

All of this, of course, is a showcase for gifted comedian Steve Coogan to perhaps demonstrate his comedic range to auds used to his acerbic biting wit, but little else. Whether it is his early scenes riffing on his radio show or his almost cartoonish sight gag wherein he is literally caught with his pants down by a paparazzi photographer, Coogan is never afraid to bare all. After over two decades playing the vile, buffoonish Partridge, he eases seamlessly back into the role with great relish and gusto. It is a true testament to his comedic chops that he has the enviable ability to make the audience cheer on such a vapid lout.

It’s a shame, however, that with five screenwriters (including Armando Iannucci, creator of Veep, and Coogan himself) Alan Partridge doesn’t amount to more than a series of comedic set pieces. Much like the recent The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it has the potential to make an intelligently satirical commentary about the death of a beloved dying medium, but Lowney, who previously worked with the character before, instead chooses to let its leading funny man ham about in a shallow film that barely resonates.


Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto-based writer. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Volver), Coen Bros. (Burn After Reading), Dardennes (Lorna's Silence), Haneke (The Piano Teacher), Hsiao-Hsien (Three Times), Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love), Kiarostami (Certified Copy), Lynch (Mulholland Drive), Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), von Trier (Melancholia)

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