Opinion: Will the Alan Partridge movie finally make Steve Coogan a Hollywood player?

Alan partridge

And so the waiting is over. After all the rumour, gossip and on-off-on-ness of the project, the Alan Partridge movie is happening. It was announced today that it will be called Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and will be released on August 7. It may or may not be about a siege at a Norfolk radio station, but that is what the short trailer suggests. As someone has already dubbed it on Twitter, Die Aha-rd.

And so the puns keep coming. Will the Partridge project go pear-shaped? Will critics give it the bird? On the plus side the brilliant Tim Key, who worked with Coogan on Partridge's Morning Matters shorts, is in it (well, in the teaser at least). And judging by the trailer Coogan either has a cushion up his vest or he has done some Raging Bull-style method eating to bulk up for the paunchy part. I'm sure Coogan would go that extra mile, or that extra lunch, for Partridge. The two were made for each other. Let's face it, Alan Partridge is Coogan's finest creation and there is, undoubtedly a bit of Coogan that is forever Partridge.

Yet I'm always a little nervous about British TV hits getting the big screen treatment. A few years ago I wrote excitedly that The Mighty Boosh was going to get the movie treatment and we are still waiting. There may have been a sort-of live movie but that doesn't count. Maybe they had a lucky escape. The film industry is littered with the mangled corpses of TV-transfers that failed to live up to expectations. Even the best brains have struggled to crack the formula.

When The League of Gentlemen made their celluloid leap they were well aware that they didn't want it to be a tawdry extended sitcom episode a la Holiday on the Buses, but even they were unable to avoid delivering a turkey. Somewhere on the way to the set someone must have mislaid the script. Too many spin-offs in the past, from Steptoe & Son to The Likely Lads and beyond have felt like little more than glossier-shot Christmas specials. The temptation to milk a success is too tempting. I'm surprised there has never been a David Brent movie, but then some wags would say that Ricky Gervais has been playing David Brent in most of his work since The Office.

However, things may have changed in recent years. The League of Gentlemen's fear was that if all you do is send the cast on holiday, out of their natural environment, you are doomed. Yet it didn't seem to harm The Inbetweeners, whose jaunt abroad became one of the British film industry's most profitable comedies ever. And that's before one starts factoring in those luscious DVD sales.

So there may well be hope for Partridge. He certainly has a well-established loyal fanbase. Who knows, maybe this Norfolk twat will help Coogan break through in America, unlike past forays such as the painfully unfunny Around The World in 80 Days. I was invited to the premiere of that and the only thing I can remember is that The Cheeky Girls were sitting in the row in front of me. While Sacha Baron Cohen's movie career has taken off and Ricky Gervais has not done too badly. Coogan is still slightly stalled. He might have worked with some of the best, from Ben Stiller to Jack Black, but he has yet to be the star of a mainstream commercial hit. My favourite non-Partridge Coogan role was as Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People and I think there was a fair smattering of Partridge in that.

Coogan is, however, a brilliant character actor and he is joined here by two great writers, Peter Baynham and Armando Iannucci, who know the film world pretty well these days through their work on The Dictator and In The Loop respectively. In The Loop was an interesting sidestep manoeuvre, taking the attitude of The Thick of It but not sticking too rigidly to the template. As for Partridge, he is clearly a monster that has legs, having gone from stage to radio to various TV series and even into the internet age. In fact he seems positively impossible to kill off. Maybe Die Aha-rder would have been a better title...

 

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