Declan Lowney's 2013 film Alan Partridge marks the big-screen debut of the character of the same name, a Norwich, England based disc jockey played by Steve Coogan. When the movie starts off, he frets over his job security after learning that the company that recently purchased the station that broadcasts his show are disappointed by his ratings numbers. He knows that the new management group wants a change in the stations direction and that Alan probably isn't the guy to bring it to them. To take some of the heat off of himself, he convinces the powers that be not to get rid of him but to eliminates fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) from the company roster. "He's Irish and he says ‘fek' a lot!" They let Pat go, and Alan figures he's safe.
Pat leaves quietly, obviously disappointed but not making such a big fuss about it, even when he realizes Alan's not going to put down his iPhone to say goodbye. That is, until later when he returns while former co-workers and members of the new management team are throwing a bit of a shindig. This time, Pat has a loaded shotgun and he proceeds to take over the radio station and hold everyone inside as his hostage, including Alan and his assistant, Lynn (Felicity Montagu). The cops arrive but Pat wants nothing to do with them and through a series of circumstances his dealings wind up being handled by one man and one man only… Alan Partridge. As an obviously disgruntled Pat takes to the airwaves to air his grievances, Alan sneaks his way onto the air with him but will he be able to convince Pat to trust him and get everyone home safe and sound?
Spun off from the popular British television series of the same name, Alan Partridge is pretty funny stuff even if Coogan does tend to overdo it in the latter half of the picture. The dialogue, however, is extremely quick witted and full of quips and barbs often traded at a machine gun pace. There is where the film finds much of its humor, more so than from the situations and the physical performances (though some of that is mined rather effectively as well). Of course, Coogan is really the centerpiece for all of this, his facial expressions communicating just as efficiently as his dialogue everything he feels as he goes through all this. Be it superiority, disdain, curiosity or a rare flip of the emotional switch Coogan plays the character remarkably well here. Things are more over the top than they were on the TV episodes (not uncommon when TV properties make it to the big screen) but Partridge's attitude and worldview remains, thankfully, very much the same as it has ever been.
As to the plot? It's fairly predictable (and it maybe borrows a little bit from JCVD?) but it works. This is really all just an excuse to let Coogan do his thing in a ‘bigger space' than he's been allowed in the past and the supporting characters that do make it over from the TV series feel crammed in really just for the sake of having them appear in the movie. They have considerably less important roles here but the premise does what it needs to do. Colm Meaney's character is fleshed out enough that we know he's been wronged and he plays his part well, showing some nice back and forth in the banter with Coogan's Partridge. Often times these have a refreshingly improvisational feel to them which can sometimes make their exchanges seem more authentic than they actually are. The movie is also quite nicely shot, making good use color. Adding to the fun is the picture's soundtrack which adds a fair bit of bounce to the movie by way of some interesting pop music choices (watching Coogan sing along while he drives his car to work in what would have to be a desperate attempt to cling to his dwindling youth is quite funny, particularly when he really gets into the performance no one is seeing).
Alan Partridge arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 2.39.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that looks like it was taken from a purely digital source. As such, the image is crisp and clean and as colorful as the sometimes quirky looking sets, costumes and backgrounds allow for. Understandably there's no print damage at all. Color reproduction looks perfect and texture in the backdrops and the sets/locations used in the movie look excellent as well. Black levels are generally good but a few scenes do suffer from some really minor crush. Thankfully these are infrequent and the image is otherwise top notch.
Also impressive is the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, with subtitles in Spanish and French and closed captions in English only. All in all, this is a solid mix with great directional effects and well balanced levels throughout. Channel separation is always strong, from the sound effects to the way that the score is spread out, while dialogue is always crisp and clear in the mix. Bass response is powerful enough to get your attention without burying anything, particularly when the music kicks in, and there aren't any issues to note with any hiss or distortion.
The main extra on the disc is a Behind The Scenes featurette that runs about twelve minutes and includes some footage shot on set during the production as well as some cast and crew interviews with Coogan, Meaney and the writers. It's amusing enough but not really all that in-depth. There's also a Behind The Scenes segment that is really just random footage shot during the production presented without any real context. It runs just under two minutes in length. Rounding out the extras are an AXS TV ‘A Look At Alan Partridge' promo spot (which is basically a trailer), trailers for a few other Magnolia releases, animated menus and chapter stops. All of the extras on this disc are presented in high definition.
Magnolia's Blu-ray release of Alan Partridge looks and sounds very nice indeed, even if it isn't exactly packed with supplemental material. As to the movie itself? You don't have to have a familiarity with the TV series this was spun off of to appreciate the movie as it's a self-contained story. It works quite well, offering up plenty of twists and turns and most importantly some great performances and some very funny comedy. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.