Dad’s Army (2016)

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Film review of the comedy, based on the classic British TV series, about the actions and adventures of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon, comprised mostly of elderly men and led by an officious, hierachy obsessed bank manager (Toby Jones) who must deal with a beautiful female reporter (Catherine Zeta Jones) and a German spy as World War II comes to a close.

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Director: Oliver Parker. (100 mins). DJ Films/Universal. (PG)

Comedy

2stars - Fair/ passes the time

Cast & credits

Producer: Damian Jones.
Writer: Hamish McColl.
Camera: Christopher Ross.
Music: Charlie Mole.
Sets: Simon Bowle.

Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta Jones, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Mark Gatiss, Blake Harrison, Daniel Mays, Sarah Lancashire, Emily Atack, Ian Lavender, Bill Paterson, Frank Williams, Alison Steadman, Annette Crosbie.

Synopsis

A seductive female journalist (Jones) arrives in the picaresque English seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea toward the end of WWII to interview the “highly recommended” members of the local Home Guard platoon for an article in The Lady magazine. Led by bank manager Mr Mainwaring (Jones), they are flattered as she follows their maneuvers. All goes well until Mr Mainwarning intercepts what looks like a message from a German spy.

ReviewDad's Army poster

“Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” – it’s only a two/five star review!

Not that a two star review is a bad thing. It means I thought the film was entertaining and passed the time in a pleasurable manner.

I suspect my fellow film patrons (made up of a diverse group of people, ages and ethnicities) at this Friday night screening of the movie remake of the much-loved British TV sitcom which ran on the BBC from 1968-1977, would entirely disagree and mark the film up a notch or two.

Whether you find the film (or any film for that matter) funny of course depends on what your type of laugh is. I tittered away like crazy watching the admittedly crude and infantile Scouts Guide To the Zombie Apocalypse because…well, maybe I am a crude an infantile person.

Not everyone found that film as funny as myself and the rather limited audience when I saw it and the film did not recoup its costs at the box office. Whether it does so on digital and DVD rentals and sales remains to to be seen.

Dad’s Army, like it’s televisual forbear, is not in that branch of laughter. Whimsical, nostalgic, gentle, silly and contrived, it has all the rigidity and appeal of Battenberg cake – sweet, plain but only necessary when accompanying a good cup of tea when visiting your grandma.

The enthusiastic bunch at the screening I attended may well agree on the above point, but we diverge on the quality of the guffaws.

I found the film amusing, diverting and (I admit it) laugh out loud funny at a couple of moments. They on the other hand were giggling furiously throughout, so perhaps one should err with their opinion on the hilarity tally. Given the initial audience numbers, this might do a brisk trade and a turn a pretty penny in profits, where Scouts Guide… did not.

The script too, in it’s own way, is ingenious, deftly paying homage to whilst developing the original story to extend it and play with ideas. It also allows Parker to ‘whisk’ events along at just the right, doddery pace to match the mostly aged cast.

One thing no one will be in any doubt of is the thoroughly entertaining impersonations from the cast. Performing in the shadows of national comedy heroes is a dangerous thing, so director Parker, who has opted (wisely) to not push his cast into embellishing what has been originally portrayed on TV, should feel proud of this smashing ensemble.

They all comfortably hit the mark and although its difficult to pick one over the others Gambon, in the old Arnold Ridley part of the severely geriatric Private Godfrey, is a delight.

Jones is a good fit as Mainwaring, but one suspects he and Nighy are enjoying themselves just a little bit less than the others.

Original cast member Williams makes a welcome return as the Vicar and Lavender (the former bungling Private Pike) pops up as a Brigadier.

Jones has the only new role in the whole enterprise and could hardly go wrong. Breathy and sexy, she appears to be aping Tallulah Bankhead’s seductive gossip columnist in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1945), a film which is name-checked early on. It’s as plain as the nose on her face what her ‘journalist’ is up to in Wilmington-on-Sea but you don’t really care about the obviousness of the set-up.

See the official trailer on Youtube.

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