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The Parole Officer (2001)

Is this the closest we’ll ever get to an Alan Partridge movie?

Starring:

Ben Miller

Emma Williams

Jenny AgutterJenny Agutter

Lena Headey

Om Puri

Stephen Dillane

Steve Coogan

Steven Waddington

Directed by:

John Duigan

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Two things immediately strike you about Simon Garden, the well-meaning tragi-comic office idiot played by Steve Coogan in “The Parole Officer”. Firstly, he's basically a watered-down version of Coogan's ingenious Alan Partridge creation, suitably tweaked in an attempt to reach an American market. Secondly, he's not a “parole” officer at all, but a probation officer – clearly another tweaking that's been made with at least one eye on the other side of the Atlantic.

Coogan hit the jackpot with Partridge, but it's fair to say most of his other characters tend to be a bit hit-and-miss. Simon Garden without a doubt fits into the second category. Shunted to a new position in Manchester after his co-workers in Blackpool have finally had enough of him, Garden witnesses bent copper D.I. Burton (Stephen Dillane) commit a murder and instantly becomes embroiled in the seedier side of the law.

Framed by Burton, his only chance of clearing his name is to get his hands on the CCTV footage showing the murder take place. But there's a catch – the all-important video is locked tightly away in a safety deposit box at the bank. So Garden recruits a few of his old clients – Colin (Ben Miller), George (Om Puri), Jeff (Steven Waddington) and Kirsty (Emma Williams) – to help him break into the bank and bring Burton to justice. Foxy policewoman Emma (Lena Headey) is among those helping out along the way.

There are several extremely funny moments, as you'd expect from the writing team of Coogan and regular scripting partner Henry Normal, but essentially there's not really enough good material to pad out the 90 minute running time. Coogan is a fine comedy performer who on this evidence is following a path well trodden by Peter Sellars, but I found it difficult resisting the temptation to switch this off and watch some old Alan Partridge videos instead.

It's Got: A hilarious scene involving Coogan, a rollercoaster, and an alarming amount of vomit.

It Needs: To be more consistently funny.

DVD Extras ‘Making of’ featurette, deleted scenes, audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and the ‘Eternal Flame’ video from Atomic Kitten. Feel free to skip past that last feature though - I know I did. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

A Fish Called Wanda, any old episodes of Alan Partridge, Johnny English

Summary

A spasmodically funny movie vehicle for a man who’s capable of much, much better.

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