This past Friday at ten in the morning, the lovely folks at NYFF screened the superb Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, a sensationally acted, edge-of-your-seat thriller in the Argo vein that will have its lead seriously competing for all of the Best Actor nods coming up this season, with its co-star Barkhad Abdi nailing numerous Best Supporting Actor slots.
Sadly, from a high, a low must often follow. Take Declan Lowney's Alan Partridge with Steve Coogan, which screened afterwards. If, on the first day of Christmas, your true love sends you this bird, get a new mate.
Not exactly woefully unfunny, although close, this lowbrow comedy is sort of an Anglicized take on Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Though, it must be noted, the smarmy, self-centered radio personality Partridge came first, having been a regular TV fixture in Britain on and off again for over two decades. And that's the problem and possibly why the film will seem so flat to American audiences. Unless you're already a Partridge aficionado, you'll wonder why a film version was even conceived for export. The jokes and affection for this character just don't fly over the Atlantic.
Taking place in a Norfolk radio station filled with a motley collection of losers, the on-air patter includes the likes of "cows don't have hymens, only partially opened cervixes." Or there might be a chat with the town's most sun-tanned child or a debate on what is the worst type of monger, war beating out fish. As for the Middle East, let's merge Judaism and Islam into one religion. Mediocrity pursues mediocrity unchallenged until a new owner takes over the station and the rather lame but sweet late-night fixture Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is sacked due to the grasping machinations of Partridge.
A day or so later, at a celebration party, Farrell shows up with a rifle and ammunition, holding the whole staff hostage. This event creates a national media frenzy, and the thrilled Partridge suddenly becomes a national celebrity, being the "face of the siege," relaying the mad ex-DJ's demands to the police and his fans.
Well, if you can sit the through the lame trailer, and chuckle, then this insipid venture might just be your cup of tea or teaspoon of Marmite. But for a festival that prides itself on presenting the best or most challenging in world cinema (e.g. Missing Picture), here's a rare misstep. Unevenly paced, lethargically droll, and intellectually barren, this Partridge is ready for a plucking.
As for our continuing search for gourmet cinema goodies, if you're addicted to Corn Pops and caramel plus loads of salt and sugar, look no further than Cosmos Creations' Salted Caramel. The tasty, gluten-free product's logo is "heavenly morsels of baked corn with all natural ingredients you can pronounce." I'm half way through a 1.7 ounce bag (260 calories) and I'm already banging against walls from a sultry sugar rush. It's sort of like Red Bull with a crunch. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Theatre into Film" and "The Arts in New York City" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writinggroup FlashPoint.