Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montague, Tim Key, Phil Cornwell, Nigel Lindsay, Monica Dolan
Running time: 105 mins
The lowdown: The big screen is finally graced with the presence of Norfolk’s most infamous son. And good news, it’s a back of the net success. Coogan and co. make nods to big screen action with a Die-Hard-in-a-radio-station plot, but what makes AP: AP fizz is the decision to play it parochial. Norfolk locations, hilarious phone-ins topics (e.g “Norfolk’s most sun-tanned child”) and gags that come as thick n’ fast as Airplane! or Naked Gun make this textbook.
The full verdict: If “who’s the worst monger: fish, iron, rumour or war” or “we’re taking dedications from people who’ve had planning permission denied” do not tickle your funny bone then stop reading.
Alan may have gone big screen, but surprisingly he hasn’t forgotten the little people who got him there. We’re talking about the fans.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa stays true to its comic roots, meaning newbies to Norfolk’s most gauche DJ could get the feeling they are missing a bit of back story.
Twenty plus years in fact, the remarkably versatile character having done radio, TV, stage, TV specials and an internet series.
But, Coogan and co-writers Rob & Neil Gibbons, Peter Baynham and Armando Iannucci know what Alan does best and it’s not jetting off to the States like Borat or going on holiday with the Inbetweeners.
It’s phone-ins and irony-free use of the Ski Sunday theme, John Farnham’s You’re The Voice and Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi. All within the beige confines of North Norfolk Digital, now renamed Shape: The Way You Want It To Be following a hostile takeover.
In true Alan style, the DJ has sacrificed a colleague, Pat (Meaney, bringing an authentic pathos as the scrapheaped DJ), rather than get chopped himself, leading to the siege set-up.
Coogan is Britain’s finest comic actor and can do Partridge sleeping upright at a bar, but is on top form here as his most famous creation. Whether missing a chance to end the siege because of an action set-piece daydream or a shot at getting the breakfast slot, Coogan’s Alan is a flawed treasure.
The supporting cast also has comedy phasers set to side-splitting. Tim Key as Sidekick Simon brings a deadpan wit to his hostage with a shotgun glued to his head and Montague works wonders with Alan’s downtrodden PA Lynn, here promoted to his conscience.
But, Phil Cornwell as post-nervous breakdown DJ Dave Clifton is the biggest surprise, hilariously using his upbeat delivery style to recount the darker moments of his depression.
We could have done with a bit more of Grenall’s misfit Partridge pal Michael though…
There are toilet based escape attempts, armed stand-offs, pops at corporate “creativity”, bi-focal sight gags, jingle genocide, stuffed crust pizzas and a surprisingly successful emotional arc for the presenter of Skirmish*.
Gag-for-gag we’d be surprised if a funnier comedy comes along this year. But more importantly, if AP: AP were a hot beverage it would be Flavia, king of coffees. And if you’re drinking it, your nostrils will be not clean by the closing credits. Kiss my face!
*Skirmish is a military based quiz show on English cable channel UK Conquest. Skirmish regularly achieves an audience of 8,000 people. Let us put that into perspective for you; that’s 11 times the population of Hemsby.