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Big guns pack no punches

Dad's Army roll-call of acting talent can't save the Home Guard sitcom from mediocrity

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

Big guns pack no punches

IT may seem strange that 40 years after the TV show finished, they’ve only now decided to
resurrect it in big-screen form. But, in this age of recycling and plundering of all things dead, buried, long-forgotten and recently departed, Dad’s Army is as ripe as anything for the reboot treatment.

It’s also, of course, a cynical attempt to cash in on the grey pound; the army of older cinemagoers flocking to see the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Song for Marion. Indeed, there was a ripple of excitement when plans for the movie first emerged – boosted by the incredible cast linked to it.

Dad’s Army is packing some heavy acting artillery – Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon and Tom Courtenay all take on some of the much-loved roles, with an impressive squadron of female talent bringing up the rear – Sarah Lancashire, Catherine Zeta Jones, Annette Crosbie and Alison Steadman all feature. But the dynamite roll call of talent can’t save this new, by-numbers, feature-length episode of the 1960s-made, Second World War-based sitcom from mediocrity.

A pedestrian but suitably grandiose storyline sees the British Home Guard, headed up by the
incompetent but proud Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones in full-on hamming-it-up mode), become the subject of a magazine article. When the glamorous Rose Winters (Jones) wafts into their fictional seaside town, Walmington-on-Sea, she sets about researching, interviewing and documenting the platoon’s operations. Using her substantial feminine wiles, she gets the men to open up – much to the chagrin of the town’s womenfolk. 

In this usually quiet coastal settlement, such an occurrence is highly irregular, so when the men are also tasked with flushing out a spy in their midst, the Home Guard doesn’t know what’s hit it. The boys see it as a real chance to make a difference as the war draws to a close. But will infatuation, deception and ineptitude stand in the way? For a bit, yes – but they’ll come out of it accidental heroes.While it has an old-fashioned, olde-English feel evocative of the original series – innocent humour and all – the remake feels outdated, irrelevant, devoid of wit and curiously charmless.

There is little to write home about in most of the performances – a basic slapstick approach rules – although Michael Gambon cast against type as the eccentric Private Godfrey manages to elicit a wry smile on several occasions. It’s perhaps the relationship between Bill Nighy’s Sergeant Wilson and Sarah Lancashire’s Mrs Pike, though, that sits at the film’s heart, and exists as its most developed and engaging part. Paying homage to a British TV classic and celebrating traditional values and simpler times as it does, it’s hard not to admire what Dad’s Army sets out to do. Modest in its scale and ambition, there’s also something refreshing about this odd little misfit of a film but, sadly, there’s not enough here to make this inoffensive offering worth seeking out.

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