Fame comes with a certain level of currency that is often unquantifiable. One minute a person can be the talk of water coolers everywhere, the next they are lost in a sea of self-pity wondering where it all went wrong. Although we live in a society that associates youth with celebrity culture, the truth is that fame has no age limit. It often comes down to who is fortunate enough to hop on the surf board in time to catch the next wave of public attention.
If there is one person who knows how to exploit a situation to his advantage, it is radio personality Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan). A long time staple at North Norfolk Digital, Partridge, unlike colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), does not even bat an eye when a conglomerate decides to re-brand the station in hopes of appealing to a younger demographic. Of course this all changes when Partridge inadvertently learns that management is considering getting rid of either him or Farrell.
In the interest of self-preservation, Partridge secretly mounts a “just sack Pat” campaign to ensure his friend is shown the door. However, things begin to backfire when a dejected and unemployed Farrell returns with a shotgun and holds the station hostage. Being the only person that Farrell trusts, Partridge is forced to be the liaison between Farrell and the SWAT team that has surrounded the building. As the media clamors to the situation like a moth to a flame, Partridge cannot help but revel in the spotlight he finds himself in.
Based on the long standing character that Steve Coogan has played both on radio and television, Alan Partridge is a film that will bring delight to diehard fans. Fortunately the film is accessible enough that newcomers, like myself, feel right at home in the zany world that Partridge inhabits. Despite the simplistic nature of the plot, which at times plays like both Dog Day Afternoon and Airheads, the comedic appeal is undeniable.
The selfish, not to mention spineless, nature of Partridge fits in perfectly with director Declan Lowney’s playful approach to the themes of celebrity obsession and loyalty. Lowney offers an interesting juxtaposition of how Partridge, Farrell and Partridge’s assistant, Lynn (Felicity Montagu), react to the various levels of fame they receive. Though Partridge is a man who we would no doubt despise in real life, his sleazy and petty ways are almost charming within the context of the film. Despite his flaws we cannot help but gleefully follow him through each new pitfall he finds himself in.
Like a surgeon, Coogan delivers his lines with both speed and precision. Coogan shows why he is one of the best modern actors to work in the realm of comedy. He is the reason why the film works as well as it does. Similar to the character he portrays in the film, it feels like Coogan is finally hitting his mainstream stride. Despite working steadily in both the UK and the United States for years, his roles in The Trip and Philomena have really helped to further enhance his comedic gift, and his diversity as a writer/actor, in North America. Look for this trend to continue with the upcoming sequel to Trip, entitled The Trip to Italy.
Though formulaic in its approach, Alan Partridge is ultimately an entertaining film that will have you laughing long after the film ends. With its rapid fire lines, and Steve Coogan’s hilarious performance, Alan Partridge is a comedic gem that is well worth your time.
Alan Partridge opens Friday March 7th at the Cineplex Yonge & Dundas theatre.