Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney
Review written by Robert D. Patrick
Steve Coogan’s dry, acerbic humor gnashes down on everything in director Declan Lowney’s rabid, unbound Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Starring as the title character, Coogan, whose tongue is given free range to lash at whatever it wants, gives his most inspired film performance since 2002’s 24 Hour Party People. Since then, it’s been a Cracker Jack guess as to what version of the British comedian we’re going to get. Flashes of the morally mired, barbed tempered, and clever actor have appeared in A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip, and last year’s Philomena, but they all had muzzled his wit to some finite degree. Here, Coogan strafes every scene with laughs.
Coogan plays Alan Partridge, a radio show host with the hubris of Icarus and the humility of a machine gun. For our narcissistic hero, it’s just another day at the office until fellow DJ, Pat (Colm Meaney), gets the ax from the radio station’s new owners. From then on out, it’s a riotous plunge into whirring bullets and barbed observational humor. Movies such as Air Heads, Talk Radio, and Pontypool have dealt with the idea of tangible danger in the belly of a broadcast system, but all of them, at some point during their running time, junked out. The Alan Partridge character isn’t a helium-headed lug but an irascible, intelligent brat – and the film that bears his name benefits from the adroit quips he lays down at each acute turn.
Colm Meaney plays the meek, somewhat slovenly DJ given the boot by the executives at the newly re-branded radio station. Hellbent on revenge, the oafish host with the milquetoast personality begins taking hostages and cracking jaws. The Irish actor hasn’t been this funny since John Crawley’s Intermission, way back in 2003. Meaney tightrope walks between gentle and incendiary during his screen time, and the mercurial dichotomy he employs makes for some ridiculously effective moments. The comic timing here – concise and with confident authority – is the real marquee star of Lowney’s hilarious opus. Coogan and Meaney work so well off of each other that their manic shtick rarely misfires. With all of the tracing paper dreck that has been released in theaters recently, it’s nice to see such a deft cocktail of physical humor and clever dialogue.