This is where a couple of hundred random citizens turn up at a cinema, having won tickets to a film they can’t remember the name of, get jollied along by a couple of minor local celebrities in branded apparel (best known for getting up early and talking into microphones), get asked collectively whether they feel “all right” (and answer collectively in the affirmative), and then have bags of confectionery thrown at them in exchange for answering trivia questions.
They are then made aware of other promotions and prizes – more exciting and lucrative than this one – available to lucky listeners who get up as early in the morning as the jolly branded-apparel-wearers, reminded that there are already free tickets to another film – also more exciting than this one – available “just by listening to Digger and the Toerag on Blah FM in the morning”, then the lights finally go down and the distributor desperately hopes this charade will turn into some precious, low cost, word-of-mouth promotion in time for the opening weekend.
As you can probably tell, I detest these events and do my utmost to avoid them, but there will be one coming up in December that I would love to be fly on the wall for – the ‘radio preview’ for Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. I can’t wait to see the faces of the ‘jocks’ when they see their world of giveaway fun-size Snickers® promotions, late-night phone-ins, traffic updates and microwaved instant coffee laid bare by the wit and wisdom of Steve Coogan and the finest of his alter egos, Alan Partridge.
The time is the present, and sportscaster and former TV chat show host Partridge has carved out a modest middle-aged career for himself as host of Mid-Morning Matters on local radio station North Norfolk Digital. He has a sponsored car (with some of the trimmings), he’s no longer living in a caravan and, frankly, things are looking up. But the winds of change are blowing through the Broads.
NND has new owners and they want a change of format – less talk, more easy listening – and a name change to Shape, of all things. Some of the older voices are concerned for their jobs, but Alan knows how to look after himself, ensuring that lovable Irish rogue Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) gets the chop first. When Pat returns to the studio brandishing a shotgun and takes the staff hostage, it’s up to Alan to make use of his notable talent for empathy and become a siege negotiator and hero of the hour.
As a mockery of a radio world that I know only too well, the Alan Partridge movie is absolutely razor-sharp. It’s a world populated by not-quite-grown-ups who would stab their best friends in the back for a shot at a drive-time slot. As a satire of modern life and all its dribbling inanity, it is hilariously painful.
Finally, as a big-screen vehicle for one of the greatest comic characters ever created, it is without peer. Some of us are old enough to remember when film versions of British television comedies meant Are You Being Served? on the Costa Brava. This is not that. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is the funniest film of the year and funniest British film since Four Lions.[info]
December Film Recommendations
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Reports from unnamed Miramar sources suggest that part two of The Hobbit saga might be less than three hours long, which will be a blessing for some of us.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller is a much more interesting director than his work as an actor for hire would have you believe, and the buzz about his whizzy reworking of the 1947 Danny Kaye classic started late last year.
There’s a serious side to comedian Steve Coogan (see main article) too, which is on display in Philomena, where he plays a world-weary journalist helping Judi Dench find her son, forcibly given up for adoption in Ireland 50 years earlier.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio for an epic black comedy about excess and malfeasance in the world of high (and low) finance. Written by Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter.[/info]