Steve Coogan may have gotten his two Oscar nominations — for writing and producing his atypical “Philomena” — but his greater fame in the U.K. is for his radio and TV work, most particularly the character Alan Partridge. I'd say Partridge is the British version of Ron Burgundy, but it should be the other way around, since the character predates Will Ferrell's pompous newscaster by roughly 20 years.
Partridge, an ex-TV personality, is now spinning discs at a small-town radio station. When new corporate owners take over, they sack Pat (Colm Meaney), an aging DJ out of touch with the youth market. Pat — a really nice schnook, once you get to know him — snaps and takes the station hostage. He regards Alan (who isn't initially among the hostages) as his one ally, not realizing that Alan in fact recommended his firing, in order to save his own job. The police recruit Alan as a go-between.
The plot is a bit similar to Michael Lehmann's 1994 “Airheads,” but there's also a bit of Billy Wilder's brutal “Ace in the Hole” lurking inside. Like Chuck Tatum in the latter film, Alan realizes that the longer the crisis lasts, the more face-time he'll get on national news.
You don't have to already know the Partridge character to get the humor. The film manages to bring us up to speed within about five minutes. It may drag a tad toward the end, but most of the time it's simply hysterical. Anyone who's seen Coogan's pseudo-self-portraits in “The Trip” or “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” will recognize the comedian's largely improvisational style, which is the source of most of the best lines.
Magnolia's disc is nicely transferred, but stingy with the extras — a making-of, a brief montage from behind the scenes, and a third promotional short, which actually duplicates some of the material in the making-of. They total less than 20 minutes. The foreign editions already released instead include a full commentary and dozens of deleted scenes. Coogan's commentaries and outtakes tend to be worthwhile, so it's a shame and a black mark against the release.
Alan Partridge (Magnolia Home Entertainment, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, $29.98; DVD, $26.98)
--ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).