The Parole Officer

Coogan plans the robbery

Steve Coogan is a comic genius and personally I could not wait to see his first foray into the world of film making. The Parole Officer was enjoyable but I found myself wishing the film was centred around Coogan´s greatest comic creation - Alan Partridge. The story sees Coogan playing a parole officer named Simon Garden, picture a younger and slightly cooler version of Alan Partridge. He is one of the good guys and accidentally comes across a seriously bent copper. He then spends the rest of the film putting together a gang (made up of ex-criminals he met through his work) to try and bring down the dodgy policeman and prove himself innocent of murder. There is even time for some love interest in the shape of a policewoman who may or may not be falling for him.

Steve Coogan´s humour is often based on observations he has made and facial expressions or body movements which he copies in order to make his characters realistic. Usually it is these little touches which make it really funny, the expression on his face when embarrassed or feeling scared are often hilarious and really well-observed. I think the most realistic of his characters has been Partridge and the facial expressions and awkwardness in this film are very similar to those used in the Partridge tv series. In the opening scene he manages to fall off his chair, and as if he hasn´t made enough of a fool of himself somehow contrives to shout "vagina" just as his interviewer walks in. Unfortunately this level of hilarity could not be maintained throughout.

The direction is standard and unmemorable as is the music and, it has to be said, most of the plot. The acting is mixed, Coogan is a great character actor and always convinces but some of the supporting cast were not so good. Also parts of the plot were just daft, how did certain characters have that expertise? Overall I was disappointed with what I perceived as quite a cliched and uninspiring plot.

Ultimately this film must be judged on laughs and I thought there were quite a few. I don´t know about the rest of the audience though, I got that feeling each time I laughed that I was alone in doing so. This probably wasn´t helped by the fact that I just find his face really funny, the expressions he pulls are often hilarious. Joke wise there were some good one-liners and nice moments of slapstick. Some of the humour was unoriginal, either I had seen it elsewhere in Coogan´s work or worse it was stolen from elsewhere (I´m sure I´ve seen the gag where the plug comes out of the wall as he goes to attack the guy with a fan loads of times, although usually it is something more dangerous).

The overall feel of the film was lightweight comedy, it really had nothing to say, and there is nothing wrong with that because we all need pure entertainment at times. The best scenes were probably the fight in the office (I couldn´t stop laughing when he picked up the hatstand and growled) and the action ending.

While I enjoyed this film I think Coogan can do alot better and for me there was nothing that surpassed or even approached the standard of some of his Alan Partridge scenes. I wish they had just made a film with Coogan as Partridge, it would have been fantastic. Still this is funny, really funny in places and it has been well-written and well-acted by Coogan at least. Although it strayed towards cheesy in places there was usually a joke just around the corner to save it from being too nice. I think this film would be a good introduction to Coogan´s brand of humour and most people would enjoy it.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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