Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Director: Oliver Parker Film review by Colin Lomas
When news first emerged of a Dad’s Army film early last year, the main cry from the fans and general public alike was ‘but why?’. Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the end product does absolutely nothing to alter this.
Beautiful German spy Rose Winters (Zeta-Jones) comes into a small town to gather information for the Nazis, blinds everyone with her looks, manipulates them to her bidding while everyone runs around suspecting everyone else but her of undercover nefariousness. Yes, it really is that derivative. It’s a plot that could have been lifted lock, stock from a hundred TV movies produced from 1960 until 1980, but tellingly probably none since.
It’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put in to casting as every character is perfectly shaped to match his respective character from the original series, and every one really tries to do as good a job as possible. Admittedly Bill Nighy is incapable of playing anyone other than Bill Nighy but it works as bumbling Oxford boy Sergeant Wilson, Toby Jones is almost indistinguishable from Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, Tom Courtenay does a fair Clive Dunn impression and Gambon was born to play Godfrey. But casting alone does not a film make.
At its core, the original Dad’s Army series was little more than a bunch of men in a church hall bickering with each other, the different character’s unique and exaggerated qualities carefully weaving a different angle into the argument and comedy as a whole. That can, and very successfully did, work for thirty minutes, but clearly it’s another thing entirely to treble the running time and expect it to still function at the desired level. So the writers, as is customary, took the whole thing out of its comfort zone with a more (supposedly) extensive plot. The problem is that the plot, script and dialogue are all utterly dreadful. It is simply not funny, nor is it interesting. At no point do you care one jot what happens to the characters or the storyline. Stir in a complete lack of humour and you’re left with a hollow shell of a movie that drags along and leaves you feeling utterly cheated. It manages to lack fun, pace, spirit and perhaps most surprisingly of all, nostalgia.
It’s good that the home front’s respective wives get some screen-time, particularly Mrs Mainwaring who was never more than a sullen passing reference in the series, but it still doesn’t help.
The film is littered with tired innuendos that are seemingly delivered at times with embarrassment, and the occasional poorly timed moments of slapstick are cringe worthy. It’s telling that the outtakes at the end of the movie are far funnier than anything in the film itself, although most of the audience will have rapidly headed for the exit by then like home fans fleeing a drubbing from a local rival.
Is Dad’s Army a missed opportunity or an inevitable disappointment? It’s difficult to care. Either way it’s badly written, dull and simply not funny.
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