“Porridge”, “On The Buses”, “Are You Being Served?”, Morecambe and Wise – all classic British TV shows that largely crashed and burned when ported to the big screen. So it was with some trepidation that I approached Norfolk’s biggest star – Alan Partridge’s – first big screen adventure.
So the large question (cue jingle – “The Laaaarrrge Question”) is… Was it any good? Thankfully, the answer is a definite yes.
The plot sees North Norfolk Digital being taken over by a corporate entity. In the cut and thrust of the subsequent hirings and firings, Partridge (Steve Coogan) dodges the metaphorical bullet but fellow DJ Pat Farrell (an excellent Colm Meaney) gets the chop and takes it in a bad way – using distinctly un-metaphorical bullets. In the armed siege that follows, the police choose Alan ‘Siege Face’ Partridge to act as the go-between in the hostage negotiations: terrifying enough even without the fact emerging that Partridge got Farrell fired in the first place.
Right from the off, in the pre-title sequence, the cringe factor gets ramped up. The radio phone in concerns “In a world without smell, what smell would you most miss?”. “My wife’s nightie” says one caller, to much ‘Saucy Devil” ripostes from Partridge and sidekick Simon (Tim Key), before the bonhomie gets rudely deflated in embarrassing fashion.
Fans of the TV show will also be delighted to see other regulars like much-bullied Partridge PA, Lynn Benfield (Felicity Montagu) and security guard Michael (Simon Greenall) return in good form.
Coogan’s Partridge is a classic comedy character: egotistical, loud-mouthed, crass, cowardly, but bearing just that essential trace of commonality with things that you might say to make his embarrassing situations resonate with you. (Who hasn’t yelled at a driver that he has his fog lights on! “IT’S NOT FOGGY!”). Seeing Coogan expand a character that he has clearly loved and nurtured over many years is a delight. To see Partridge seize the siege opportunity (too good a Partridge alliteration to avoid) to expand his own PR image is fantastic, and the broad visual humour as he escapes the building is just hilarious.
All in all, this is a must see for Partridge fans, and even for non-Partridge fans (of which my good lady is one) this is a funny and engaging film by any standards. There are more chuckles per minute that most films I’ve seen this year, and several real belly laughs. This certainly makes up for the recent disappointment of ‘The World’s End’. Apart from a rather ludicrous and inexplicable police shooting near the end of the film, there is virtually nothing that I could criticise about this.
Recommended for all with the broad and intelligent sense of humour needed to appreciate the Partridge in full flight.
Fad Rating (A-HA!): FFFF.