Posted on 9/13/13 01:19 AM
Unlike our enthusiastic trans-Atlantic cousins who pride themselves on reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning and re-enacting the signing of the declaration of independence through interpretive breakdancing , Great Britain's patriotism has deflated like a solitary party balloon at the world's saddest children's party. We are self-deprecating to the point of being almost apologetic about being good at stuff, preferring to settle for mediocrity for fear of causing too much of a fuss and bother, whilst simultaneously being under the delusion of how everything's rubbish and things aren't as good as back in the olden days.
But if you ignore all those awkward things like mass genocide, rampant colonialism and child slavery, us Brits have a lot to be proud of. Residing on a tiny island in the Atlantic where all the history came from, we've made our mark in many a field, from science to politics, and even managed to save the world from the Nazi scourge with a little help from our Allied friends. But perhaps where we have made the greatest impact is culturally, from literature in the bearded forms of William Shakespeare and J(eremy) K(yle) Rowling, through our musical legacy with the likes of Bananarama and The Beatles, to our legendary cinematic contributions via such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Powell and Pressburger, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean...and...ummm...the Carry On films?
Equally, Britain has been integral to the evolution of comedy. Although everyone says the secret of comedy is timing, it is also incredibly subjective, and chained to its cultural origins, which doesn't necessarily make it very translatable. No one can argue that the likes of 'The Goons' and 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' laid the foundations for modern comedy. But in a world where success is gauged on how much the US enjoys it, it is amazing to think that the likes of 'Monty Python' and, bizarrely, Benny Hill, became huge in America - the latter being a particular favourite of porn-obsessed hash magnet and rap/reggae weasel Snoop Lion. Despite the fact that we share a common tongue, we have more in common with the stereotypically arrogant and aloof French (although we'd never admit it) than we do our fervent wide-eyed American cousins and it is difficult to predict how favourably any of our international comrades will receive our humble contributions. But there is one titan of British comedy that is so resolutely British, it would be interesting to see if he could make in-roads internationally, and that is fictional TV-presenter turned local radio DJ Alan Partridge (as played by the brilliant Steve Coogan) continuing the great British comedy tradition of the flawed, perpetual loser one can somehow empathise with, whilst simultaneously glad in never having to meet as we watch (usually through our fingers) their cringe-inducing and usually politically incorrect escapades.
Starting off as a sports pundit on BBC Radio's 'On the Hour', graduating to classic TV news satire 'The Day Today', then star of his own various TV series charting the rise and fall of the crass, petty-minded egotistical chat show presenter, he's finally landed his own movie in which we see Partridge, now a local radio DJ in Norfolk (the very epitome of the words 'provincial' and 'flat')with dreams of regaining his TV celebrity status, whose station is about to be taken over by a soulless digital media conglomerate. Fearing for his job, Partridge orchestrates the sacking of fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), leading the latter to take the station hostage. As the surreal events escalate, the oblivious and monumentally inept Alan finds himself chief hostage negotiator, but sensing a tantalising career opportunity, winds up battling his own ginormous ego as much as trying to keep himself and the other hostages alive.
There is always a risk when translating TV comedy to the big screen that it will simply fall flat, unable to take the strain of the movie format and failing to be consistently engaging and funny over an extended running time. But it is a testament to the skill of all involved that they have evidently taken the time and care to craft a credible cinematic vehicle for one of Britain?s best-loved comedy creations. Steve Coogan's portrayal of the ignorant and arrogant Partridge is so recognisably accurate, full of subtle nuances, that no matter how far he blunders into the realms marked 'idiotic' and 'tactless', you can't help but root for him. But what elevates the whole show is director Declan Lowney's firm control over the ridiculous proceedings, and the clever, quotable and consistently funny script which not only contributes to its rewatchability but also pokes fun at everything from the appalling banality of local radio, the British public's staunch isolationism and eccentric point of view, to the homogenisation of entertainment for profit. Additionally, the writers, including Coogan, Neil and Rob Gibbons, 'The Day Today' alumnus Peter Baynam and, alongside Chris Morris, perhaps Britain's greatest satirist in 'The Thick of It' and 'Veep' creator Armando Iannucci, give nearly all of the talented British cast some kind of chucklesome scene or line. Colm Meaney manages to retain our sympathy despite regularly threatening to blow the head off any of his colleagues; the usually tedious stand-up comic/poet Tim Key is an amusing addition to the Partridge clan as Alan's slightly inappropriate radio sidekick; and both Felicity Montagu and Simon Greenall make welcome returns as our bumbling protagonist's eternally put-upon assistant Lynn, and borderline psychotic ex-soldier turned security guard and only friend, Michael.
With 'Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa' and last month's 'The World's End', Britain continues to prove there's more to us than bowler hats, red double-decker buses, cheeky cockney scallywags, dull kitchen sink dramas, infantile London-centric gangster capers, stiff upper lips, overly-mannered costume dramas, tutting and huffing, fish and chips, football, joyless whinging and a needless inferiority complex. We can be proud of the fact that we can continue to produce cultural offerings that are fun, imaginative and easily rival (and is some cases surpass) the offerings any of our international brethren can churn out. Whether anyone else gets the joke is neither here nor there. We got the best Alan Partridge movie we could have hoped for, and if anyone wants to join us for the hilarious ride, they're more than welcome. And in an absurd effort to bridge the gap between wildly different cultures, they may even learn a thing or two about the vagaries and trivialities of British culture along the way.