ALAN PARTRIDGE Don't hate him because he's British!

I SUSPECT that the first movie featuring the long-running Alan Partridge character isn't intended as the definitive introduction to the clueless, vain English broadcaster as embodied by Steve Coogan. And I assume that most American audiences probably know next to nothing about Partridge's lengthy backstory—a fictitious, 20-year-plus history on British radio and television in which Partridge has gone from hosting a BBC chat show (Knowing Me, Knowing You) to an unglamorous daytime slot at a regional radio station. But Coogan, whose American profile is currently higher than ever in the wake of Philomena, has created a character that's as intrinsically, indelibly funny as any on the big screen (Ron Burgundy, for example), and Coogan guarantees that Partridge's ridiculous persona is more than enough to win over new audiences in any format.

Alan's home base, the North Norfolk Digital radio station, has been bought out and rebranded, and with the new ownership comes the rumor of layoffs. It's hilarious to watch Partridge flail as he attempts to prove his relevancy to his new bosses, but before long that's the least of his worries. Another job-threatened DJ, Pat (Colm Meaney), takes the entire station hostage at gunpoint, and Partridge somehow lands in the role of intermediary between Pat and the police.

This serves as a very funny launch pad for the spectacularly unheroic Partridge, but there's a bit too much plot here. Alan Partridge is at its best when Alan just gets to be Alan; the opening credit sequence alone, in which he mimes the entire lyrics to Roachford's "Cuddly Toy" while driving to work, is worth the ticket price. Coogan is a comedy legend across the pond, and he's made a few dents with dedicated British comedy aficionados in the States. Alan Partridge is yet further proof that he's one of the funniest people on the planet, with Partridge as his crowning achievement. It's time to get to know Alan.