Dad’s Army (2016)
Director: Oliver Parker
Writers: David Croft, Hamish McColl , Jimmy Perry
Stars: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones
I want to start off this review of the big screen adventure of the classic 1960’s British Sitcom by saying to my American friends and readers, and I hope all my readers will loosely become friends, that this film is basically a tribute to the original material. Two things, when I say friends I mean friendly, not that kind of friendship where I help you move a couch, but a peaceful respectful nod in the street kind of friend. The other thing is that while the script writers here have managed to create a world that you will know of if you don’t know the original material from the sitcom you won’t be lost, but you’ll get more from this film by having some form of knowledge of the Sitcom.
I watched this film with a pair of nostalgia glasses on, with a dopey grin on my face, waiting for the familiar jokes and set ups to come along and they did. I laughed and got a little tearful, I don’t mind you knowing that, when the finale started and the brave elderly gentlemen sprang into duty.
For those who have never heard of Dad’s Army before I’ll go through the basics. During World War 2 Britain needed soldiers to guard the home front while their enlisted men fought the enemy in the skies, seas, and land. These men were known as The Home Guard, they were bankers, bakers, butchers, and other careers that didn’t begin with ‘B’. Most were turned down for the regular army because of age or health, but none the less were prepared to fight for their country. Dad’s Army was about a group of mostly elderly men who wanted to serve their country and the misadventures that they go through. In the little town of Walmington on Sea this group of men gather together to protect the coastal town from the Nazi invasion. The head of the group is Bank Manager Captain Mainwaring played by Captain America star Toby Jones. He’s ably helped by his second in command, in the Bank and in the Home Guard, by Sergeant Wilson, played by Bill Nighy. The jokes come from the different personalities, some of which you wouldn’t trust to change a lightbulb, but in the context of the film they are the best that this town has left. The cast here also includes Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Mark Gatiss, Blake Harrison, and Daniel Mays. With Gambon stealing every scene that he is in. Something that the sitcom rarely did during it’s 9 years on TV and that has been corrected here is showing the women behind the men who also served their country while maintaining their jobs and homes. The female cast here reads like a who’s who of TV comedy legends. It gives the story and the film a little bit more texture. Catherine Zeta Jones plays a reporter/spy who is infiltrating the Home Guard. There is little for her to do here, she’s hugely talented but wasted here, and the scenes where she and Sergeant Wilson are embracing just feels uncomfortable to watch. It was an amazing thing though with the two original cast members showing up, it made me smile like an idiot, my normal smile, for their screen time.
Injecting a spy story into the comedic element of the film felt really forced, and there are times that the true nature of the source material is just abandoned. I’ll be honest here, if I didn’t know or like a little the original sitcom then I’d avoid this film or would have thought that the film was dated. If this was released in the 90’s it would have been fine. Also the amazingly talented cast makes the film top-heavy. There are too many great actors having little to nothing to do, Tom Courtenay and Annette Crosby are great actors and have little to nothing to do. But I’m thankful that none of the stars rested solely on the original actors performances, they brought something new to the film. As I still sometimes enjoy watching the sitcom I found this to be something worthy of my time and will probably buy this on DVD/Blu Ray when release. If you are in doubt about what this film is about then it’s better for you to stay away, there are many Dad’s Army fans still out there who will enjoy this. This is in the end an entertaining and fitting tribute to the long running much-loved Sitcom.