AFTER TEAMING with Judi Dench for the Oscar-nominated "Philomena," Steve Coogan is back with his favorite co-star, himself.
That's not to say the comedian is a narcissist, but to acknowledge that he's often at his best alongside the supersized egos of the characters he plays, none more memorable than "Alan Partridge," the hilariously vain broadcaster character who succeeded despite (or because of) his relentless solipsism (the basis for a long-running BBC show).
The movie version out this week is Alan's funny swan song, also a darkly comic elegy for the broadcast media age that produced such . . . fowl men.
"I'm not supposed to talk to the press," someone says.
"I'm not press," is the reply, "I'm in television."
Alan, for his part, is not even in television anymore. He's 55, divorced, out of television and toiling on a midday radio show somewhere in the British provinces, broadcasting to a small, elderly, disappearing audience.
When new owners come in, Alan and the rest of the dinosaurs can smell the extinction-level reorganization in the offing.
One desperate DJ (Colm Meaney) tries to impress management with a grasp at being up-to-date:
"I Googled you on Yahoo."
Heads roll, leading to an "active shooter" event and hostage situation, during which Alan is called upon to mediate between the gunman and police. It's the perfect comic fulcrum for Coogan, who gets to balance Alan's warring internal instincts - abject cowardice and a compulsive need for the spotlight.
The movie is directed with wit and energy by Declan Lowney, who replicates the punchy, try-to-keep-up-with-the-jokes pacing of the "Partridge" TV shows, co-created by Coogan and Armando Iannucci (creator of HBO's "Veep").
Coogan himself contributes much of the writing, and crafts an appropriately merciless send-off for his alter ego (for Alan, there's no going back, or forward - the age of YouTube appears to have caught Alan with his pants down).
Alan has been compared to American cousin Ron Burgundy, but Ron is an emotional infant, utterly unreflective - the joke in "Anchorman 2" is that he thinks psychoanalysis is some sort of voodoo. Ron doesn't want to know himself.
Alan knows himself only too well, and though he wonders if he's he better for it, we know that we surely are.