Friday, 7 March 2014

ALAN PARTRIDGE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The corporate branding of radio gets justifiable comic jabs. Steve Coogan is so funny he makes you forget that the sum of the picture's parts are greater than the whole.

proves once again why he's ever-so CLEARLY

Alan Partridge (2013) **1/2
Dir. Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Several notable elements, including a decent story idea, a fair whack of solid laugh-lines, a couple of knee-slapping physical comedy set pieces, plus the winning presence and performance of the picture's star, co-writer and creator Steve Coogan in the title role, all promise a tremendous tickler of the funny bone. The parts, however, prove greater than the whole. However, IF YOU LOVE STEVE COOGAN (and if you don't, you are bereft of brain and/or a sense of humour) you'll have a good time watching Alan Partridge.

Playing a sickeningly obnoxious disc jockey at a British seaside radio station, Coogan is, as per usual, a marvel. He manages to take a character which, by rights, would normally prove to be utterly detestable. By adding just the right (and subtle) smidgens of human shadings, he allows us to root for the borderline repulsive persona he occupies. In fact, it's a character Coogan and his UK fans know very well since he's been playing the wisecracking ingrate of the movie's title in a variety of mediums for over 20 years.

Alan Partridge, however, is the character's first official foray into feature film and one its makers no doubt hoped might make decent inroads into the North American marketplace. This, for now, is probably not in the cards. It's a pity, that the movie just isn't all that good. This is a drag, because the material is brimming with potential, but little else.

Even the most mainstream radio broadcast entities used to have something resembling personality on a corporate level as well as in the myriad of on-air styles and voices. Now, with endless conglomeration and idiotic "branding" and streamlining, audiences are being shovelled the horse shit of less and less choice. The station Partridge and his mates work for is vaguely milk toast-ish, but then, so are many of its listeners. A corporate takeover results in the firing of a folksy Irishman on the late night shift (Colm Meaney) and his subsequent armed hostage taking at the opening night party of the newly branded station puts Partridge in the unenviable position of being the key go-between for both sides.

The situation has a great deal of potential for mining the material for considerable substance and satire, but the flaccid direction by TV-camera-jockey Declan Lowney lets much of it down. As funny as much of the movie is, it's scattershot in all the wrong ways. It either needed the kind of in-your-face sledgehammer of a Sidney Lumet type or the roiling acidity of Lindsay Anderson or perhaps even, a gentler Ealing Comedy touch (soft on the outside, razor-sharp on the inside) - something the Scottish director Bill (Local Hero) Forsyth used to be so good at.

Instead, Alan Partridge is all over the place and suffers for it. The lack of a strong directorial voice and vision undercuts everything the movie seems to want desperately to do. Even Coogan is haphazardly directed here. When he's on, he's on, but when he's off, he's usually unnecessarily over the top and needed someone to reign him in and glean all the gold he can so amply deliver. (Coogan's great turn in Hamlet 2 is a perfect example of how he needs to be handled.)

Still, there are laughs to be had when Coogan hits the nail on the head with several of the film's zingers. "Never insult Muslims," Partridge warns his co-host. "Christians are fine and the Jews, a wee bit, but never Muslims." This, of course, is in response to an equally funny bit where an on-air caller is encouraged by Coogan's sidekick to promote peace in the Middle East by merging Judaism and Islam to yield "Juslims".

There's a screamingly funny bit when a station employee hides in a closet during the hostage taking and upon discovery reveals he's used his lunch box to take a crap in. Needless to say, when it's tossed out the window, the teams of Swat guys scatter when the lunchbox full of excrement lands at their feet.

After spinning one of several album cuts he and Meaney have to dig out of a storeroom since the new owners of the station have completely revamped the playlists, Coogan crows: "You can keep Jesus Christ. You just heard Neil Diamond - truly the 'King of the Jews'".

There are plenty of decent laughs to be had, but far too much of the movie feels like its clodhopping about to its predictable and unsatisfying conclusion. The movie needed a director - one with a firm hand, craft and a voice. Alas, this doesn't exist and the movie suffers for it.

Alan Partridge is currently in theatrical release via Video Services Corp. (VSC) It'll be worth a spin once it hits DVD, but until then, it offers up very little incentive to see on a big screen.

Here is a lovely selection of VSC (Video Service Corp.) titles you buy directly from the links below, and in so doing, contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner: