book haul, books, currently reading, films, murakami, Netflix, recently watched, Steve Coogan

After last weeks mega book haul I managed to keep myself to a slightly more acceptable number of 2 new books this week. I still didn’t technically “need” them but, really, I did need them. I don’t know why I can’t stop myself buying books. I have so many to read that I never know where to start and I’ve run out of convenient places to store them. Every sign is pointing me towards not buying any more but, as soon as I’ve had a bad day at work, oops another book comes home with me. I kind of feel like those crazy people who hoard loads of cans in their basements in case of nuclear apocalypse. Of course, in the event of the apocalypse my huge personal library will provide little in the way of practical assistance. I mean, in an incredibly dire case, it could provide some heat but that feels a bit too Fahrenheit 451 for my tastes. Maybe I could make some sort of rudimentary shelter with them but, again, it doesn’t seem like the best start to my post-apocalyptic life. Although, fingers crossed, it might be a good time to finally put a dent in my humongous TBR pile.
Currently Reading

  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey
I’d definitely have finished this by now if I hadn’t been so bloody tired. I’ve ended up doing a fair few early shifts so have been drifting off in the middle of chapters. If all goes well I should finish this in the next few days. Now I just need to pick what I’m reading next.

Recently Purchased 
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes

Since finishing The 7th Function of Language at the end of last month I have found myself drawn to read more of Barthes’ work. I’m becoming obsessed with his writing in a way that I wish I have been at university. He definitely came up in my Literary Theory class but I never really gave him a second thought. I’ve always been pretty stubborn in my love of New Historicism and tend to not look too far beyond that in my analysis. Anyway, I decided to start with this because it’s the kind of thing poncy people in airy fairy relationships like to quote when they talk about their connection. I’m sure the cynic in me is bound to hate it but the young girl who grew up on Disney movies will no doubt swoon.

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I’ve still not got beyond the first book of Haruki Murakami’s epic tale and, if I’m honest, I have no plans to finish it any time soon. However, I’ve been taking a lot of photos of my Murakami collection recently and it’s starting to feel incomplete. There are still a couple of old books that I don’t have (A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) and I still need to buy Men Without Women and Absolutely on Music. But, getting one step closer, feels good and I can convince myself that I’ll finally start Book 2, which I won’t.

Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Modern Family, Westworld
You know the drill by now, Modern Family rewatch is still going strong. Still lovely and fairly amusing. All good. However, the big news is that I’ve finally started watching Westworld. Honestly, I’m not sure what to think of it. I really want to like it but I can’t help but feel a bit detached from it. I don’t know. It’s not as amazing as I wanted it to be but I’m only on episode 4 or 5. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Mindhorn
Love Julian Barratt so, with the release of his recent film, I decided it was time I finally watched him as the greatest fictional detective from the Isle of Man and discuss it my Tuesday review.

  • The Parole Officer
Then, to counter that lovely experience, I decided to watch an long forgotten film from 2001 for my TBT post. It wasn’t pretty.

TBT – The Parole Officer (2001)

British, comedy, crime, cringe, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, fucking stupid, meh, Steve Coogan, TBT

When you’re the creator of an iconic character it can be super difficult to get yourself out from under its shadow. Steve Coogan has tried to move away from just being the guy who plays Alan Partridge but nothing else has ever really stuck. Let’s be honest, he’s appeared in some utter shite over the years and it’s not been pretty. In more recent years he has made the move that most comedy performers over a certain age try and picked more serious roles. Gone straight if you will. It was a different story back in 2001 when he co-wrote and starred in his own British comedy crime caper. For some reason, when The Parole Officer came out it was constantly being compared to the Ealing crime comedies from the 1950s and 1960s. I guess there were just no real expectations for British comedies in the early 2000s so anything that got made was deemed kind of successful. It was the same year that the Vinnie Jones comedy vehicle Mean Machine and a film about a hairdresser from Keighley starring Alan Rickman were released, after all. When the greatest British comedy to be released that year was Bridget Jones’ Diary then maybe I can see why people got so excited. Nowadays, Coogan seems pretty embarrassed to have ever made the film and, in 2015, stated that he doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. I’ve known a load of people who loved this film but, really, they aren’t the kind of people who I would ever seek advice from. On any subject matter. However, it’s been a really long time since I saw this film so, after I so harshly critiqued it during my Tuesday review this week, I decided it was time to see if it really was as bad as I remembered.

Alan Partridge claimed The Parole Officer was “unarguably the greatest film ever made”. We have to assume that he’s at least a little biased, of course, on account of it being his creator, Steve Coogan’s film, and, you know, cause he’s a fucking fictional character. Rewatching the film in 2017 I was struck by 2 things: number 1, Stannis Baratheon and Cersei Lannister are both pretending to be British police officers and, number 2, this is a fucking awful film. It’s weird to think of a time when Steve Coogan was having to try so fucking hard to make it in Hollywood but this film is proof of the murky depths he was once willing to sink to. It’s sad and more cringe inducing than anything Alan Partridge has done in his illustrious career. The major positive I have for it is, because it was made during a time when British comedies tended not to wander too far beyond the 90 minute mark, it’s short. I mean it still felt like I was watching it for a good few days but, in reality, I didn’t actually have to waste too much time on it.

The Parole Officer is not a fresh British comedy and, instead, uses a really tired situation but with additionally gross-out gags. It’s trying to do the same thing that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did so successfully just 3 years later with Shaun of the Dead but failing. With their Cornetto Trilogy, Wright and Pegg managed to repurpose the narratives of classic Hollywood genres for use in a UK landscape without it seeming too gimmicky. Here, Coogan and co-writer, Henry Normal, just lazily implant the premise of films like The Italian Job in the North of England. It just ends up being overly twee and nonsensical. It needed a more careful hand instead of just putting Coogan on a rollercoaster in Blackpool and calling it a day. It’s just infuriating to watch this film and know how much better it could have been. Instead, the narrative is just a mess that is full of holes, dropped storylines and so many awful attempts to push comedy where there shouldn’t be any.

Coogan, obviously, has the starring role as the titular Parole Officer, Simon Garden, who accidentally witnesses a murder carried out by a corrupt cop (Stephen Dillane). He is threatened with going to prison for the crime unless he shuts his mouth and leaves Manchester forever. In order to clear his name, Simon puts together a plan to rob a banks and retrieve a VHS tape showing the truth. He creates a crew using the only 3 criminals that he has successfully convinced to go straight and a teenage joy rider he was trying to help. At the same time, Simon is attempting to romance the way out of his league WPC Emmap (Lena Headey) who, for reasons not shown during the film, has fallen for the charms that nobody else seems to realise Simon has.

Despite boasting a great cast, everything about The Parole Officer feels kind of flat. The actors all do as great a job as they can but it never comes together. It always feels like we’re watching a terrible film instead of being engrossed in a fantastically woven tale. Although, Dillane is memorable as the bent copper who threatens Simon and the trio of ex-criminals fair much better than Coogan himself. It helps that they are played by the likes of Om Puri and Ben Miller, of course, but they all get some fairly decent moments. What is majorly disappointing is that none of the characters have any real depth. Coogan clearly has a talent for creating well-rounded characters but nobody, not even Simon, feels fleshed out. You don’t really know anything about anybody or why we should give a shit about them. This film is so desperate to get to the action and the gags that it skips the important stuff.

There is certainly an issue with pacing and editing in this film. The first 30 minutes are a confusing mess which feels as though major parts of the story have been cut. People suddenly talk to each other like old friends and seem to know things they really shouldn’t. And that’s exactly the point where you realise that you still have an hour of this shit to sit through. The script has a decent stab at creating some comedy to move things along but most of it falls flat in the end. There are a couple of really funny moments but, for the most part, it relies too heavily on physical comedy or gross-out gags. I can see why Steve Coogan regrets making this film. I regretted watching it again before I was even half-way through. There is very little to really celebrate here. It deserves props for getting such an amazing cast together but it ruins it by not giving them anything to do. Considering how great we know Coogan can be, The Parole Officer it’s even more insane that this film is as bad as it is.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Mindhorn (2017)

cops, films, fucking creepy, fucking funny, fucking ridiculous, fucking weird, parody, reviews, Steve Coogan, the mighty boosh

I guess I’ve always had a bit of a weird sense of humour but, as I get older, it’s becoming more and more obvious to m that people are just nodding politely whenever I’m trying to be funny. Years ago, my twin sister prepared me to meet her boyfriend for the first time by uttering the phrase “don’t be weird”. There’s nothing quite like sisterly love, eh? So, yeah, you could say I’m a bit strange at times. I blame television. Okay, I blame the television I grew up watching. I was a huge fan of weird British comedies like Spaced, The Adam and Joe Show, Alan PartridgeThe League of Gentlemen, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Peep Show, and, most importantly for the purposes of this post, The Mighty Boosh. Now, and I feel super fucking old having to write this, it’s been 10 years since the final episode of the show aired and the pair have gone on to other things. Noel Fielding has entered the murky, innuendo filled world of baking shows whilst Julian Barratt has done bits and bobs in films, television, and theatre. Maybe its just his Northern charm but I have always absolutely adored Julian Barratt. I knew plenty of girls around my age who were major fans of Vince Noir’s face. Personally, I was always a bit in love with Howard Moon. So, when Mindhorn was announced I was beyond excited. Of course, being as useless as always, I never got round to watching it… until now.

From what I can recall, Bruce Mindhorn first made an appearance in The Mighty Boosh radio show as a poet taking part in a talent competition. Clearly, since then, he’s gone through a bit of an identity crisis and rebranded himself as the greatest law enforcer on the Isle of Man. Detective Bruce Mindhorn, gifted with a cybernetic eye that could see the truth, was the star of a hit 1980s tv cop show played by actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt). Caught up in the wave of popularity that came with his role in the show, Richard left the Isle of Man to make it in Hollywood. Cut to 25 years later and Richard is a shadow of the man he once was but, thanks to a handy murder, he is about to be given an opportunity to turn his life around. A young girl’s body has been found and the deluded prime suspect is demanding to speak to Detective Mindhorn. Can Richard get back into character and help the police capture their man? Or will his quest for fame hinder the investigation?

Written by and starring Barratt and Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn isn’t exactly what you’d call cutting edge. We’ve seen the basic premise of a washed-up former star getting one last chance for redemption countless times. The plot is hardly a stretch but it does provide some fun. It introduces us to the weird, slightly awkward and occasionally laugh out loud funny world of Richard Thorncroft and, despite being incredibly similar, it’s still ever so slightly better than 2013’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. A great deal of the humour comes thick and fast in the opening scenes where we learn the history of Bruce Mindhorn and the people associated with the show. The spoofs on classics like Bergerac and Six Million Dollar Man are spectacular and you can well believe, now more than ever, that a show that insane would have been broadcast. Throughout the film there are hints as the same kind of zany humour that filled all 3 series of The Mighty Boosh but, kind of, more rooted in reality. I’m not going to pretend the jokes hit every single time but there is enough comedic energy to keep driving the meagre plot forward.

What absolutely helps is that all of the actors tackle their roles with aplomb. Julian Barratt’s clearly doesn’t give a shit about anything but making people laugh. Up for anything, his portrayal of Throncroft is both hilarious and strangely touching. The obvious narrative wouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does if you didn’t, despite everything, actually give a shit about this guy. As he slowly realises what an arse he’s been, you’ll find all of that initial annoyance fading away. His co-writer is on less solid ground as Thorncroft’s ex-stuntman, Clive, thanks to a Dutch accent that is only marginally better than the one last heard in Austin Powers: Goldmember but you’ve got to give him props for happily walking around the Isle of Man topless and wearing denim short shorts. Russell Tovey puts every effort into his role as The Kestrel, the deluded young man who the police are chasing and holds his fair share of the laughs. Steve Coogan pops his head up as Thorncroft’s ex-costar who found insane fame thanks to a spin-off from the original show. It’s hardly Coogan’s best or most memorable work but it sure beats anything he did in the early 2000s (*cough* The Parole Officer *cough*).

Which, ultimately, is fine. Mindhorn is an uneven and kind of mediocre comedy that will appeal to fans of Barratt and those who miss the glory days of 70s cop shows. It is, in a way, a warning to the idea of nostalgia and fandoms that never quite finds its voice enough to relay its message. What is does, for the most part, is manage to be funny. Not as much as it would have liked but, you know, God loves a trier. And yes, it does have the whiff of a 30 minute TV episode that has been stretched out for the big screen but, aside from a few plot strands that do nowhere, it’s super easy to mask the smell. Mindhorn won’t be for everyone, I realise, but, after dismal big screen appearances from both Alan Partridge and David Brent in recent years, Barratt has managed to move his brand of comedy to film. Yes, this is very different from a Mighty Boosh movie but, maybe, that’s why it works as well as it does. This film isn’t trying to be fresh or relevant. It just wants to make you laugh and, goddammit, it occasionally will do.

TBT – What Maisie Knew (2013)

book, divorce, family, film, review, Steve Coogan, TBT
Recently one of my closest work friends left the business and I was put in charge of his leaving collection. This is mostly down to the fact that I’m fucking awesome at buying people presents. I’d love to be modest here but it’s the cold hard truth that I always find the perfect gift for any occasion. It’s a blessing and a curse. Once again, when the time came to present him with my offerings it went down incredibly well. Considering that much of our interaction at work came down to quoting Alan Partridge I knew what I had to do. Amongst other random shit, I managed to track down an Alan Partridge blazer badge, Alan’s big plate, some Kiss My Face brand soap and a chocolate orange with superficial damage to the box. Turns out there’s a lot of great shit out there for any fan of Steve Coogan’s most successful character.

The big curse of creating a character like Alan Partridge is that trying to do anything else is always going to be tricky. I admit that whenever I see Steve Coogan’s name associated with a film I always get a bit suspicious. I loved The Trip as much as the next person but I’m always disappointed when there’s a lack of Partridge-esque behaviour. Especially when he’s trying really hard to be a serious actor. There was nothing wrong with him in Philomenabut it just felt weird that he wasn’t being silly.
I also find it questionable when he’s cast as a Casanova because I just can’t see him as desirable. In the 2013 adaptation ofHenry James’ What Maisie Knew, Coogan plays a failing art dealer who marries his much younger nanny after his first marriage breaks down. Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s adaptation transports the novel to modern day New York City. Beale’s ex-wife is the dramatic and narcissistic rock star Susanna (Julianna Moore) and, as they take solace during their impending divorce, both neglect their young daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile). The story focuses on Maisie and her struggle to create some kind of family base.
What Maisie Knewis made thanks to it’s young star. The camera focuses on Maisie for the most of the narrative and Aprile is outstanding in the role. Maisie, at only 6 years old, is already world-weary thanks to her self-centred parents who treat her as something to hold over their ex. The film doesn’t quite get into the lessons Maisie learns about love and family in as much detail as the novel but it does paint a truthful and often uncomfortable portrait of modern family life.
With her parents ignoring her, it is down to Maisie’s new step-parents to take control of her well-being. Beale and Susanna both marry young and kind people (Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Venderham) who love Maisie more than her biological family ever have. Skarsgård in particular has awesome chemistry with Aprile. In one sequence where Maisie and Lincoln, a bartender, have fun in the city I swear my uterus exploded it was so fucking adorable.
What Maisie Knewis an acidic portrait of a bitter divorce and modern life. It’s not quite as dark and bleak as the novel but it does well in it’s updated setting. The characters, whilst over-the-top and often grating, work perfectly within James’ original idea. There are some fantastic performances but many of the adult actors get lost within their one-note performance. Julianne Moore is a whirlwind but never really gets beyond the dysfunctional and egotistical rock star. It’s a disappointing turn from such a wonderful performance; though still not as shitty as The Lost World.

What Maisie Knewis beautifully shot and handled with great care by McGehee and Siegel. It often verges on the edge of, and occasionally well into, cloying sentiment. It is a successful adaptation that flourishes in its new setting. However, no matter how cute its lead actor may be, there is no escaping the sense that something was missing. That it just wasn’t as great as it could have been. 

Philomena (2013)

heartbreaking, Jeff Pope, Judi Dench, review, Stephen Frears, Steve Coogan

So whilst I’m planning a romantic valentine’s day with vampire Tom Hiddleston, a friend of mine is arranging to take her fiancé to watch the significantly unromantic Philomena: the adaptation of Martin Sixsmith’s book about an elderly woman’s journey to find the son she was forced to give up as a teenager. Not a terrible film but hardly the kind of film you’d consider for a romantic night out.

Philomena is a story that sheds light onto the despicable hypocrisy and cruelty that was tainting parts of the Irish Catholic Church. It is a heartbreaking tale but one that focuses its attention on one woman. This isn’t a hard-hitting exposé (see 2002’s The Magdalene Sisters) but is a film that highlights the human angle. Translating a deeply personal film in such a way that everyone who watches is can take something from it. Of course, there is always a danger when telling a human interest story that it could end up falling on the wrong side of schmaltz and trash but screenwriters, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, and director, Stephen Frears, handle it perfectly.

It is adapted from the true story of an Irish nurse (Dench) who turns to ex-journalist and disgraced Labour spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) to help track down her missing child. In the 1950s the teenage Philomena became pregnant and was forced to take refuge at the convent of Roscrea. After the birth of her child the young girl (Sophie Kennedy Clarke) spent her days slaving away in the laundry room in exchange for a meagre one hour with her son. Until the day he was sold to a wealthy American couple and lost to her forever. Hearing the tale from Philomena’s daughter, Sixsmith picks up on the opportunity to heal his reputation and return to his journalistic career by writing a human interest story about the tragic tale. Their investigation takes them from the convent in County Tipperary, to the United States and back again.
The largest section of the film plays out like an odd-couple narrative where the endearing, working-class Philomena jars with the cynical middle-class man. He must bite his tongue every time Philomena rejoices about the simple pleasures she is exposed to and she can never quite work out when he is joking. There is a great deal of humour to be found within Coogan’s deadpan delivery and Dench’s adorable but slightly kooky performance as the leading lady. The finest comic sequence of the film is a beautifully delivered exchange revolving around her fondness for romance novels and Sixsmith’s disdain for the genre. Dench’s comic timing is spot-on and she easily ensures that Philomena doesn’t end up as a pathetic caricature.
The pair has great chemistry on screen but there always remains a distance between them. The film explores issues of faith and forgiveness throughout Philomena’s search: with Sixsmith adamantly pronouncing himself an atheist and Philomena sticking with her deep-seated faith despite everything she’s been though. Thankfully though, the script never moves into the dodgy territory of showing that the union changes Sixsmith’s life or vice versa. There is no attempt to have the holy woman leading the lost journalist back to the flock nor does Sixsmith try and push his religious anger onto his travel companion: they simply come to an unspoken mutual agreement to disagree.
Judi Dench is on fine form with her portrayal of Philomena. There is great depth behind the slightly delicate exterior. She is the kind of character that has served Dench well in the past: a quiet and composed exterior hiding the unseen trouble underneath. After hiding her shame and guilt for 50 years, Philomena approaches her search with a certain amount of trepidation but never loses her high-spirits or courage. It is a sophisticated and careful performance by Dench that has rightfully won her plenty of nominations this award season.
Coogan’s performance is more held-back but no less impressive. He is refined and restrained throughout. Whilst Sixsmith is never allowed redemption, mainly because he never believes he needs it, the journalist does find his voice. It is obvious that Coogan is a talented actor but he makes the decision to step back here. He keeps everything fairly low key and, even in Martin’s most emotional moments, never lets his anger spin out of control. Rightly, the moral and emotional focus here is Philomena and, under the steady hand of Frears direction, Dench pulls it off beautifully.

Philomena is a well-judged and well-balanced film that tells an upsetting story that is still light-hearted.It doesn’t shy away from revealing the harsh truths but ensures that there is always a pinch of humour to lighten the emotional blows that eventually hit you. It is a sophisticated and intelligent drama that will warm your heart despite its content. 

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

Alan Partridge, Armando Iannucci, comedy, meh, review, Steve Coogan, television

Alan Partridge is, without a doubt, the most impressive character that Steve Coogan has ever played. I have tried my best to enjoy his other offerings but nothing compares to the perfectly executed radio DJ/TV presenter. Partridge was first introduced to the world thanks to his outings on the short-lived BBC Radio 4 comedy On the Hour in the early 90s. Since those days he has appeared in a wide variety of platforms and has gone through a few professional changes. With his inherent ability to say the wrong thing and commit career suicide whenever it looks like things might be going his way, Alan has always offered up an array of whimsical and cringe-inducing comedy. However, there will obviously be a possible danger when a beloved sitcom makes its way to the big screen. Would the delicate details that flourished in the half hour episodes get lost in translation? Would the film makers make the mistake of turning everything up to 11 to stick to Hollywood standards? Would Alpha Papa prove to be a worthy addition to his accomplished career? Well, a mere four months after it was released, I was all set to find out.

As it happens Alan Partridge’s first outing on the big screen begins in very familiar territory as, thankfully, Coogan was not tempted to move the action to an exotic new location. Instead, the eponymous DJ still holds his position as host of the mid-morning show on North Norfolk Digital and, along with his assistant Simon (Tim Key), attempts to get to the crux of society by asking the important questions, like “which is the worst monger: fish, iron, rumour or war?” There is certainly a sense in the first few minutes that this is simply going to turn into a lengthened episode of his TV shows.

Nevertheless, this is Partridge x100 and the hapless shock jock finds himself in one of those unbelievable yet sort of plausible situations. There is a necessity for sitcoms making their way to cinema that everything will become bigger and brasher and, despite all of the comforting Partridge trademarks, Coogan has certainly delivered. The station is being taken over by one of those conglomerates who are keen to throw around their corporate buzzwords and focus on revenue over content. In their haste to modernise they promptly fire veteran host Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) who’s classic talk-radio style isn’t in keeping with the fresh approach. Understandably, Pat doesn’t take the news well and heads back to the studio during a welcome party, shotgun in hand, and takes the staff hostage. Alan then finds himself placed in the vital role of negotiator and becomes as widely known as he’s always dreamed of.
It’s not the kind of plot that would have required a great deal of stringing together but it does provide some moments for Coogan to show off his knack for physical comedy. The actor’s exchanges with his fellow cast are, more often than not, wonderful and it’s lovely to see the return of old favourites like Lynn (Felicity Montagu) his put-upon PA, his Geordie friend Michael (Simon Greenall), and rival DJ Dave (Phil Cornwell). However, within the confines of the siege plot, these old friends never really get the chance to do anything incredibly memorable or sensational.
As I see it, the main problem with Alpha Papa is that the scenario leaves very little room for growth. The supporting cast are pushed into the background for the most part and even Alan himself, to a certain extent, seems like something of an afterthought within this fairly pedestrian narrative. Unlike the set-ups offered within his TV shows, the siege drama doesn’t allow Alan’s natural buffoonish nature to really fly. Instead he must conform to the traditions of the genre. Instead of being the eternal loser, Alan is placed in a position of heroism and, in the process, finds his comic potential lessened. Partridge’s humour comes from his flaws which means something just feels off when his dreams are finally coming true.
There are moments within the middle section of the film that feel forced or stretched. There are some jokes that are just out-of-place and others that are pushed to their utter limit. The siege itself is a prime example. From the start, it is fun to see ‘normal’ characters within this extraordinary situation but it soon becomes tedious and doesn’t always allow the talent attached to flourish. Something that starts off as farcically amusing eventually becomes tired and leaves you wondering whether the character was quite ready for a prolonged outing.
That is not to say that there aren’t moments of brilliance. Naturally, considering the wealth of writing talent on board, the script is littered with great one-liners and more quote-worthy material. It is, at its heart, a wonderfully refreshing and constantly funny film. The talent is still on show even if it gets lost within the story of a vengeful Irishman. It is the opening sequences in particular that have the most in common with the Partridge we all know and love. He’s exactly as we remember but with a slight lack of ageing make-up. Steve Coogan has put his much-loved character to sleep a number of times by this point but there can no denying that he still knows what he’s doing. He slips back into the character with ease and continues to ensure there is always a tinge of self-awareness behind all of the outlandish behaviour. The film flies in the closer moments where Partridge is on full display doing what he does best and never really manages to top the opening scene in which the hapless DJ rocks out in his car to Roachford.

I guess the best way to sum up Alpha Papa is to say that is the kind of film that Alan himself would have wanted to make about himself. It has ideas of grandeur and hopes of something just slightly beyond its reach. It is good but it just doesn’t feel as good as it should have been. Watching this as a standalone film and you’d walk out happy; watch it after a Partridge marathon and you’d possibly feel a little let down. Everything was set in place for something fantastic but there is an ever present sense that the makers didn’t have enough faith in the character to let him do his own thing. It’s a shame.

The Other Guys (2010)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Stevenson, review, Steve Coogan, Will Ferrell

These days I find myself drawn to Mark Wahlberg films. I’m not entirely sure when it happened but Marky Mark became one of the more reliable actors around. So much so that I find myself desperate to watch Pain and Gain and 2 Guns every time I see the trailers. I may prefer the rap career of Hollywood favourite Will Smith but there can be no denying that Marky’s talent lies outside of hip-hop. He’s a talented actor and, most surprisingly, an incredibly funny performer. His role in Ted was a revelation so I started my mission to work my way through his filmography. If I’m not careful he’ll become one of my favourite actors and once that happens I will certainly have to start re-evaluating my life.

The Other Guys is another spoof of the classic buddy-cop film with Wahlberg and Will Ferrell taking their position as the title characters. Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg ) are police officers who find themselves overlooked next to a pair of superstar detectives, played wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. They find themselves paired up thanks to their past professional mistakes and are stuck filling out their co-worker’s paperwork. That is until they accidentally stumble into the middle of a huge financial scam, with Steve Coogan’s corrupt businessman at its centre.

As with every movie of this type, The Other Guys struggles to find a balance between comedy and the cinematic tropes of the genre at its foundation. Just how much adrenaline-pumping explosions and shoot-outs do you need in a comedy crime caper? Unfortunately, The Other Guys doesn’t quite get it right. McKay and cinematographer Oliver Wood (what happened to the Quidditch career?) push the action sequences as hard as they can and make sure everything is as in-your-face as possible. The focus should be the characters but there is always too much of a focus on the genre that everything just gets muddled and feels too big for the film-makers.

Writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy stretch the already thin narrative just a little too far and they never quite manage to control it. There is too much confusion surrounding the flimsy stock market scam and subsequent armed robbery and kidnap that the main plotline just becomes a runaway train that blasts its way through some of the better moments. Thankfully The Other Guys has a saving grace in its central relationship and there are just enough stand-out moments throughout. These snippets occur when the bizarre characters get a chance to bounce off one another and distract us from the derivative plot.

For one thing, Ferrell and Wahlberg are a comedy super team here. Whilst Ferrell is still as funny as we have come to expect, it is refreshing to see him working the more straight-man role (albeit with a dark secret past hidden just below the surface). This also means he has some room to move within his performance. Rather than playing a character at 100% coarse, The Other Guys allows him to mix things up a little. He works well against Wahlberg’s brash and hot-headed Terry who is living with the frustration of being saddled with an inept partner and dull duties. He is full of anger and is the perfect foil to Ferrell’s reserved Allen. As with similar films, the humour is primarily based upon their conflicting way of life and their overall chemistry.

The pair is aided along their way by a wonderful and hilarious supporting cast. Michael Keaton is a comic highpoint here as the outrageous police captain who can be relied upon to provide a TLC quotation for every occasion. Likewise, Eva Mendes once again proves to be a funny performer and completely throws herself into some of the more ridiculous moments. However, it is the brief appearance of Jackson and Johnson in the opening scenes that really stood out for me. These moments are an outrageous but excellent parody of every over-the-top police action films. Whilst on screen for only a brief time, they are the stars of some of the funniest moments.

The most disappointing star is Steve Coogan, the man responsible for one of the all-time greatest comic characters, Alan Partridge. Suffering from being involved in such a forgettable and insignificant plot-line, Coogan just gets lost in the chaos. He has a few throw-away lines that might garner a titter but it just feels like he’s simply along for the ride.

A feeling that will only grow as the film progresses towards its finale. There are moments of true hilarity but this has the overall feel of one long sketch show broken up by a farcical crime plot. The funniest moments are the random tangents and the banter between our leading pair. The actual narrative is just consequential. Still, The Other Guys is a film that is primarily concerned with making its audience laugh and there is no denying that it does that. If only it had been less interested in the other side of the coin and veered off the Michael Bay path of film-making.