A witty, efficient, and quirky little tale of an oddball in an odd situation.
Alan Partridge is a new film centered around a beloved fictional radio host/DJ character created by Steve Coogan and friends for the BBC series, On The Hour. An unknown to most American audiences, Partridge is precisely the type of neurotic, awkward, and narcissistic underdog that we love to watch and cheer for (like Ron Burgandy). The film is a bizarre tale involving an absurd but charming chain of events. There are moments when the story comes very close to crossing into unfunny territory, but instead it rides the line without sacrificing its tempo. There’s something quite wonderful about a comedy that knows how to get in and get out whilst fulfilling all the requirements of the genre, and Steve Coogan seems to be the mastermind behind it all.
Coogan is Alan Partridge, a radio DJ who’s station is taken over by a media conglomerate, complete with the inevitable cost-saving layoffs. Fellow radio host Pat Farrell, played by Colm Meaney (returning to Get Him to the Greek form), is fired and ends up holding the station hostage and not communicating with the police except through Partridge. Part of the fun is seeing how these two men handle situations that they are completely unprepared for and unfamiliar with. The strange chain of events continues from beginning to end, with each uninformed move by Partridge or Farrell sending the story through odd twists and turns.
It’s no surprise that Partridge feels like an thoroughly fleshed-out character given the countless English radio and television shows, spin-offs, and spoofs the character has appeared in (dating back to 1991). We’re introduced to Alan Partridge in his radio booth and we can immediately get a sense of a rich history full of odd moments and awkward experiences. The comfort in which he operates in his own self-serving world is hysterical. It’s equally funny when he strays out of his comfort zone and becomes mentally and physically incapable of adjusting, relying on rapid talk as a defense mechanism and tool to work his way out of jams.
Also, because of the established groundwork for the character, the film is able to keep the jokes and plot structure very tight. There’s no fluff. Each interaction is typical of Partridge’s traditional sketches, which had to be edited sharply to fit within short timeframes. Wisely, Coogan doesn’t expand the timing of his shtick to accomodate the film’s running time. Rather, he just crams in hilarious bit after hilarious bit to keep the story moving. And with that said, I’ll waste no more time and tell you to go see it now.
Alan Partridge opens in select Bay Area theaters on April 25, 2014.