“TV characters rarely make a satisfying leap to feature-length affairs,” notes David Fear in Time Out New York, “though fans of Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge—a former BBC talk-show host reduced to killing time as a small-town radio DJ—have long prayed this brilliant cringe-comic creation would be the exception to the rule. The big-screen debut for North Norwich’s No. 1 son, however, is a textbook case of why these things are bad ideas.”
“Alan Partridge is, as its American title presupposes, practically a one-man-show, the likes of which its star has performed many times before,” writes Julien Allen at Reverse Shot. “If you only really associate Steve Coogan with his roles in Michael Winterbottom films such as 24-Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story you might be understandably puzzled as to why he occasionally crops up in semi-humorous roles in American comedies such as Tropic Thunder or The Other Guys. The reason is that a section of the U.S. comic fraternity (the likes of Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell) has seen something the vast majority of the American public hasn’t yet, and that something is what Coogan does better than anything else: Alan Partridge.”
“When the station is acquired by corporate overlords, Partridge’s fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meany) gets sacked,” explains Jesse Hassenger at the L, “and he returns to the station armed and ready for vengeance. Partridge is improbably sent in to defuse the situation; eventually, he realizes the opportunities for fame built into ‘hosting a siege,’ as he puts it. The movie is basically about a monstrous ego awakening from within a dorky, genial radio host, giving Coogan plenty of room to drolly portray a small-time grasper…. But mostly, it’s a vehicle for semi-absurd and almost wholly delightful silliness.”
“Unassumingly directed by UK television vet Declan Lowney (Father Ted!) and scripted by five individuals (including Coogan and In the Loop‘s Armando Iannucci, who co-created the character,) Alan Partridge is basically 90 minutes of free time for Coogan to put himself in awkward situations,” writes Jordan Hoffman at Film.com, and at Slant, Nick Schager finds that “Lowney’s film operates from a conceit that affords only minor opportunities for true hilarity; when Coogan isn’t riffing about with reckless non-sequitur abandon, the film more or less grinds to a standstill.”
David D’Arcy isn’t the only one to be reminded of Michael Lehmann’s Air Heads (1994), “in which the three members of an unappreciated band—Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser—lose their tempers with the local DJ (Joe Mantegna), turning an argument into a hostage crisis. If you haven’t seen Air Heads, you don’t watch television in the daytime, where it played endlessly—unlike the recordings of the trio in question.”
At the Playlist, Drew Taylor gives Alan Partridge a C; in the UK, where it opened this summer, the film had a subtitle, Alpha Papa. A sampling of the critics’ grades: Nigel Andrews (Financial Times, 3/5), Xan Brooks (Guardian, 3/5), Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 3/5), Tom Huddleston (Time Out, 3/5), Geoffrey Macnab (Independent, 4/5), and Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 4/5).
Alan Partridge screens tonight at 9 at the New York Film Festival.