“Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler…” – we all recognise those words. Whether you’re of a generation who remembers British sitcom Dad’s Army airing for the first time, or perhaps if you’re more familiar with the show from lazy, Sunday afternoons at your parents’, playing in the background – either way this is a treasured show that is a staple of our childhood. But isn’t that where we’d like to keep it? It’s that sense of familiarity that makes it such amiable television, but to be brutally honest, it’s dated and not relevant – but that hasn’t stopped director Oliver Parker endeavouring to bring this back to the big screen. Quite who the anticipated audience is remains to be seen, and having seen the picture, it’s likely that you’ll still be none the wiser.
Set in the familiar town of Walmington-on-sea, we meet up with the Home Guard platoon, who are hellbent on proving their worth and ensuring that the elderly have a part to play in this vicious war. Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones) is in command, vying tirelessly to get his clumsy collective, consisting of Sergeant Wilson (Bill Nighy), Lance Corporal Jones (Tom Courtenay) and of course the youngster Pike (Blake Harrison) in check. But they all find themselves sidetracked with the arrival of Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta Jones), a beguiling presence who fronts as a journalist writing a report on their squadron. As they all seek in impressing her, annoying their wives in the process, they are alerted that a German spy is amongst them. Though little do they know, it’s somebody rather close to home.
Parker has certainly captured the tone and essence of the TV series, as Dad’s Army is an uncynical film with a lot of heart and warmth, but sadly that hasn’t been complimented with a particularly gripping narrative; not to mention the distinct lack of funny jokes, which is somewhat destructive given this picture is supposed to be a comedy. The lacklustre screenplay is detrimental, and particularly frustrating considering the performances are anything but. Toby Jones stands out with a nuanced, empathetic turn, while the majority of laughs fall into the lap of an impressive Michael Gambon, who plays Private Godfrey.
This picture thrives in traditionalism, to an extent where the cinematography gives off the impression that Parker has created a pastiche, with Zeta Jones even shot in soft focus to enhance this notion. But then you’re left with the prominent question of what’s the point in bringing this franchise to the modern world? If we’re only going to seek in romanticising over the original series, then you’d be much better off merely indulging in that instead. The overriding sense of “leave it be” is a prevalent one that lingers over this endeavour like a dark, menacing cloud.