Sustained, sophisticated laughs

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 11:49 01/12/2013
Alan Partridge
FINALLY MAKING THE BIG SCREEN: Alan Partridge

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ALAN PARTRIDGE – ALPHA PAPA (M) 90 mins

Partridge purists have waited a long time for this moment: Britain's best-loved broadcaster, after two decades of toil, finally making the big screen.

He must feel overweening pride. I know I did.

Created collectively by the best of a new, hard-edged generation of British comics - figures like Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham - and brought to life by Steve Coogan, Alan fans (yes, like me) have a library of his remarkable one-liners on tap.

Alpha Papa doesn't deliver quite so many memorable snap quotes as his previous outings, but that's understandable and even commendable: its a proper film, not a sitcom, and the laughs here are more sustained and sophisticated. But they still cram them in, right up to and including the closing credits.

Born on a radio show sketch, Partridge went from manic sports caller on Chris Morris' hugely influential news parody The Day Today, to his own heavily Abba-influenced chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You, the autobiography (I, Partridge), and then the painful years of decline into regional and online radio in sleepy Norfolk (I'm Alan Partridge). The film opens with Alan's career still in tatters, our hero hanging by his fingertips to his radio gig as corporate wankers come in to rebrand.

But it's his colleague, late-night DJ Pat Farrell - played by the dependable Colm Meaney - who is eventually sacked, gains revenge by taking the entire staff hostage at their Christmas party, and will negotiate only through Alan. Happy days for Alan, able to simultaneously indulge his love of the spotlight and his Walter Mitty tendencies, and the set-up and extended screen time gives Coogan time to stretch out and unfurl every bizarre and much-loved character trait.

There's also some sunshine for the support cast, not least put-upon offsider Simple Simon (Tim Key) and of course, his durable PA Lynne (Felicity Montagu). But this is, just as he would want it, all about Alan. A triumph.

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