Dad's Army 

 

Half

 

 

An all-star cast is mobilized to play the bumbling members of the Home Guard from the 

beloved 1968-1977 sitcom.


With the beloved 1968-1977 sitcom still being broadcast, one can’t help but wonder what the point of an all-new feature film might be. The cynical amongst us might reason that with a new bounce in the silver pound and with the series’ on-going popularity, a quick buck was to be made. Well, the director Oliver Parker (St. Trinian's II, Johnny English Reborn) and the executive producer Sir Alan Parker (no relation) have certainly pulled out all the stops. Unlike most feature remakes of British sitcoms, this one has two knights and an Oscar-winning star in its thespian ranks. Nonetheless, most of the action rests on the shoulders of Toby Jones, a diminutive man and major talent who already has Truman Capote, Alfred Hitchcock and J.K. Rowling’s Dobby under his belt. Here, though, he tackles Captain George Mainwaring, a figure perhaps even more familiar to most of us. While Jones captures the pompous vanity of the character to a T, he somehow seems to be acting harder than the great Arthur Lowe ever let on. More successful are Sir Tom Courtenay as Clive Dunn (aka Lance Corporal Jones), Bill Paterson as John Laurie (aka Private Frazer) and especially Sir Michael Gambon as the muddle-headed Arnold Ridley (aka Private Godfrey), who virtually steals the film. With his familiar timbre and type-casting as abrasive braggarts, one can forget what a talented actor Gambon really is.

 

Dad's Army II    Dad's Army 

Tom Courtenay as Lance Corporal Jones and Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring 

 

The plot itself, involving the infiltration of a Nazi spy in the sleepy seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea, is largely predictable and redundant, being merely a mannequin on which to dress a ragbag of familiar and Ealingesque characters. Although branded with a PG certificate – for Heaven’s sake, why? – the film could not be more innocuous or old-fashioned. True, Mrs Mainwaring (a deadpan Felicity Montagu) does get to tell her husband prior to bedtime that “I’m on top tonight”, shortly before the camera reveals their single-stacked bunk beds. But a double entendre like this will surely be lost on the young of brain. There was just as much innuendo in the U-rated Carry On Sergeant, a comedy not dissimilar to Dad’s Army – and one made in 1958.

Fans of the series will no doubt relish the cameos of old regulars – Ian Lavender as a brigadier and Frank Williams reprising his role as the Reverend Timothy Farthing – as well as the time-honoured catchphrases: “We’re doomed, doomed,” “Permission to panic!,” “They don’t like it up ‘em,” et al. But while there are chuckles to be had, it’s an odd sensation watching well-known faces playing well-known faces, not unlike witnessing Madame Tussauds jogging into life. Only a vegetarian would relish Linda McCartney’s sausages if they couldn’t have the real thing.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Blake Harrison, Daniel Mays, Bill Paterson, Sarah Lancashire, Mark Gatiss, Emily Atack, Alison Steadman, Holli Dempsey, Annette Crosbie, Ian Lavender, Felicity Montagu, Oliver Tobias, Julia Foster, Jacqueline Tong.

  

Dir Oliver Parker, Pro Damian Jones, Screenplay Hamish McColl, Ph Christopher Ross, Pro Des Simon Bowles, Ed Guy Bensley, Music Charlie Mole, Costumes Dinah Collin.

 

DJ Films-Universal Pictures.

99 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 5 February 2016. Cert. PG.