North Americans have Will Ferrel’s Ron Burgundy, an on-camera anchorman who’s self-centred arrogance has him chewing down on his own foot often. In Europe, the Brits have Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. Partridge is an egotistical radio personality obsessed with a celebrity image and a winning smile.
Where Burgundy can read on screen as a pompous jerk with a heart of gold steeped in spoof misogyny, Partridge is more endearing. He always finds a way to slip into the spotlight, and try to have others sympathize with him or view him as an inspirational icon. However, he’s just as easily flustered and frustrated when he isn’t included.
Steve Coogan’s amusing character takes a step away from real life airwaves and his UK Television show I’m Alan Partridge to star in his first leading vehicle self-entitled Alan Partridge. The film is better known as Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa across the pond, but it’s a title that may have had others scratching their head over its otherwise silly meaning.
That adjustment is what’s going to make Alan Partridge’s overseas success interesting to observe. I think it helps outsiders taking a chance on the film to know a little bit about Partridge before paying for a ticket. His fumbled muttering, and his self-absorbed attitude may have the general North American movie going public growing irritated. However, if they have that initial information or can quickly jive with the lead doofus, they may have themselves as good a time as us fans.
Personally, I found Alan Partridge to be a good comedy that met the goals it set out to achieve. Director Declan Lowney manages to do what most SNL flicks have difficulty doing – taking a sketch character and having him carry a film all the way until the end. It also helps that Coogan is still playing the cocky host splendidly.
Alan Partridge plays out as a movie Mike Myers would’ve jumped at the chance to star in. I wouldn’t call Lowney’s film a laugh-out-loud riot as Myers’ past comedies have been (pre-Love Guru, mind you), but there’s a consistent flow of titters and chuckles that will have you pleased with most of the material. Although, a scene featuring Alan getting caught with his trousers down will definitely shock you into hysterics.
The story of a disgruntled, newly fired radio personality taking the station and its employees hostage doesn’t feel rote, as does the decision to make Coogan the hero despite the role’s narcissism. Partridge, being the unctuous goofball he is, manages to find fame in dire circumstances. He completely understands the danger of the takeover, but is strangely complimented when he’s chosen as a messenger for the police and a co-host for a radio show during the malicious siege.
Lowney’s modest comedy will satisfy the Alan Partridge fan base as well as fans of Coogan’s dry wit. The main question, however, still stands: how the hell is this going to perform outside the UK?
I won’t be surprised if Alan Partridge doesn’t drum up new anticipation during its North American theatrical release, but I won’t be disappointed if this type of movie finds cult life on VOD.
The World’s End, the last outing in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, yet again pairs the filmmaker up with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to tell a tale of everyday men in monstrous peril.
This time, Pegg and Frost play former friends who had a falling out between their teenage years and adulthood. Gary King (played by Pegg) hasn’t given up living the high life of booze and babes. Meanwhile, Andy (played by Frost) and the rest of Gary’s gang (made up by British funnymen Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Paddy Considine) have grown up and left the past behind.
The elusive pub crawl named the “Golden Mile” has been a fond memory of Gary’s, but the regret of not completing the drunken mission to all 12 pubs has always stayed fresh in Gary’s hazy memory. He haphazardly collects his bitter buddies, and the gang heads back to their childhood homestead of Newton Haven to settle unfinished business.
The camaraderie amongst the main men is contagious and supremely funny. The small talk that takes place is sharp witted and observant, while the timing of each joke is on target. Fans of Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz won’t be disappointed. The co-writer/director is still very quick on his filmmaking feet and shows his comedic talent is still in tact behind the camera.
However, there’s a slight disconnect in The World’s End that hasn’t been apparent in his prior features – including work outside of this trilogy like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
Pegg and Wright are just as smart as their amusing screenplay. But, when it comes to writing depth in the material focusing on friends growing apart and realizing how reunions at an older age have inelegant moments, it feels as if the two are penning a subject that is slightly out of their element.
I admire the duo trying to capture deeper emotions than the other two comedies have traveled to, but it feels less authentic here. Almost as if Pegg and Wright are guessing as to what those interactions would feel like. The World’s End is nowhere near as smarmy as Dennis Dugan’s Grown Ups films and it’s enormously better than the lager-logged buddy film Beerfest, but it isn’t as stable as it should be.
When science fiction makes its grand entrance into the story, it feels as if Pegg, Wright, and the rest of the production are back in a comfortable realm. One that’s easy for this group to deliver happily hilarious results.
The effects are not as frenetic as we usually expect from Edgar Wright, but they’re just as attractive and wonderfully nerdy. As our merry men face the evils of robotic “blanks”, the action picks up during well choreographed and impressively shot sequences. Sometimes even taking place during extended takes.
There are even moments where Wright emulates the spontaneity and brilliance captured by Monty Python. A revealing scene during the final stretch where the punch-drunk friends interact with a faceless, glowing leader is a prime example of this inspired memorability.
But, it all leads up to an ambitious ending that feels completely out of place. It comes off as Wright and Pegg playing chicken with the movie studio regarding what they can get away with, leading to the studio calling out their bluff.
Looking at the trilogy as a whole, this entry is definitely the weakest and the post-screening reception certainly isn’t lasting. It does, however, have “cult classic” written all over it. Expect this sucker to be quoted at colleges a decade from now or be the inspiration for similar real life “Golden Mile” adventures.
The World’s End is a solid enough comedy that delivers on most of everything it promises. For what it’s worth, I had this same middling feeling leaving the theatre when I saw Hot Fuzz. A couple of years later, I revisited the cop comedy and found it absolutely hysterical. I look forward to watching The World’s End again and seeing if it follows suit on a second viewing.