Alan Partridge

Making an inherently unlikable character somehow endearing is no simple task, but as impossibly narcissistic failed talk-show host Alan Partridge, British actor Steve Coogan virtually built his career on just such an impossible feat. Although the thoroughly English character remains a cult figure outside of the U.K., Partridge has become a mainstay in contemporary...read more

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Reviewed by Jason Buchanan
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Making an inherently unlikable character somehow endearing is no simple task, but as impossibly narcissistic failed talk-show host Alan Partridge, British actor Steve Coogan virtually built his career on just such an impossible feat. Although the thoroughly English character remains a cult figure outside of the U.K., Partridge has become a mainstay in contemporary British comedy, while Coogan, the man behind the too-wide smile, has expanded his comic horizons with the BAFTA-winning series The Trip (subsequently edited into feature form, with a sequel soon to follow) and the Oscar-nominated Philomena (which took home a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay). Thatís a verbose way of saying that Coogan has gradually distinguished himself as a talent with far more range than his detractors would care to credit him with, though his genius might be that heís still not afraid to look like a total dolt.

In taking Partridge to the big screen with this eponymously titled film, Coogan does precisely that, proving that success has yet to dull his self-depricating comic instincts. And while the odds are low that the character will break through to American comedy fans if he hasnít already, those in the know can take comfort in the fact that Alan Partridge, the movie, is true to the rich comic legacy established by Alan Partridge, the insufferable egomaniac.

BBC sports reporter-turned-TV host Alan Partridge (Coogan) never met a guest he couldn't look down on. His career has had many peaks and valleys over the past two decades, and now he has landed a job on the radio. As the host of Norfolk's "Mid-Morning Matters," he spins the latest hits while putting an irreverent twist on top local news stories. But when a new corporate entity takes over the station and a disgruntled DJ (Colm Meaney) responds to getting fired by taking the staff hostage, Partridge becomes the intermediary between the volatile gunman and the police. With the entire town watching, it's only a matter of time before the clueless host says something he'll regret.

Few comic creations have an indefinite shelf life, but the less relevant Partridge becomes in his own fictional universe, the funnier he gets in the real world. Perhaps itís his staunch refusal to acknowledge his failures (or at least to be shackled by them), but thereís something in his utter cluelessness thatís almost admirable for those who feel constrained by self-awareness. Partridge remains as pompous as ever in this film, despite having fallen about as far as a media personality can without fading into total obscurity. We laugh at him for it, yet for those who have witnessed the characterís steady decline over the years, that laughter contains some substance. Willfully blind to the shake-up unfolding at the radio station, Partridge appears incapable of even ackowledging that his career is in jeopardy until he literally sees it in writing, and even then heís incapable of anything more than reflexive self-preservation. As a writer, Coogan has taken the characterís professional trajectory to its logical end and revealed just how deep Partridgeís flaws run, and as a comic performer, he remains razor sharp and fearless (as evidenced in a scene that finds him locked outside of the radio station sans slacks).

It takes a particularly skilled actor to navigate that intersection between conceptual and physical comedy, but Coogan does it in a way that feels entirely organic. By contrasting Partridge against Meaneyís character -- an earnest man who is essentially the antithesis of Partridge -- Coogan gives this farcical hostage situation just enough dramatic weight to service the characters without souring the mood. Likewise, gags revolving around the worldís most cynical radio jingle, some inappropriate basking in the media spotlight, and a septic tank serve to keep the atmosphere enjoyably irreverent: They offer longtime fans of Alan Partridge the opportunity to laugh at the characterís faults, while showing the uninitiated just what theyíve been missing. So even if youíve never heard the name Alan Partridge before, the film that bears his name is likely to keep you laughing, and perhaps send you on a hilarious journey of discovery back through his not-so-illustrious career.

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  • Released: 2013
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Making an inherently unlikable character somehow endearing is no simple task, but as impossibly narcissistic failed talk-show host Alan Partridge, British actor Steve Coogan virtually built his career on just such an impossible feat. Although the thoroughl… (more)

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