If you had sky-high hopes for the big-screen outing of Alan Partridge—Steve Coogan’s smarmy chat-show journalist, a classic BBC creation—now’s the time to moderate them; this is a film that rewards low expectations. Coogan is as slimily watchable as ever, the script has its fair share of zingers, and it all moves along at a steady pace. We find Alan happily nestled in his online radio job at North Norfolk Digital, unruffled by an impending corporate takeover, his dreams of light-entertainment superstardom long since left behind. But when a recently fired DJ (Colm Meaney) comes back for revenge, Alan finds himself in a hostage situation and he’s the only one who can talk the madman down.
It starts well, then proceeds to tumble slowly but inexorably downhill, exchanging gloriously awkward DJ banter (“That was soft-rock cocaine enthusiasts Fleetwood Mac!”) for lame slapstick sequences in which Alan accidentally flashes the paparazzi. Perhaps it’s due to the film’s tight production schedule, but the final act feels rushed and underwhelming, tying up loose ends with a “will this do?” shrug.
Coogan and his cowriters (including Veep’s Armando Iannucci) must be commended for refusing to take the obvious route and deliver a brassy U.S.-friendly blockbuster. But they may have erred a little too far in the other direction: Where Alan Partridge should be old-fashioned and intimate, it instead feels cheap and a little drab. It’s not the back-of-the-net goal it should have been.