3.25 / 5
A respectful and funny take on a British classic
When the announcement came that the 70’s comedy classic Dad’s Army was going to be made into a film, I was not impressed one bit. I hated the idea that such a brilliant and of it’s time television series was going to be made with a new cast. However, when the cast was announced, there was some hope in me that they could deliver something that could do the original series justice. Although it can not be compared to the brilliance of the original series, the film is respectful and has some funny moments as it attempts to live up to one of Britain’s most loved comedy programmes of all time.
For the non-UK followers of my blog, Dad’s Army was a 70’s sitcom concerning the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea. The Home Guard were described as Britain’s last line of defence and had various roles during the Second World War concerning British cities all over the coast, and they comprised on volunteers too young, too old or a medical exemption from going to the frontline.
The original cast of Arthur Lowe, John le Messurier, Clive Dunn, Ian Lavender, John Laurie, James Beck and Arnold Ripley were all perfect in their respective roles. During the original broadcast, the viewing figures peaked around 18.5 million viewers. 40 years on and the episodes are still repeated on BBC2 every week with a 2.7 million audience watching.
The film is respectful of the original television series, and does well to establish itself as a stand alone film. The cast are some of Britain’s finest, the Home Guard consists of: Toby Jones (Infamous, Harry Potter, The Girl), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Tom Courtenay (The Dresser, Quartet, 45 Years), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, The Singing Detective), Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners), Daniel Mays (Mrs Biggs, The Great Fire, Ashes to Ashes) and Bill Paterson (Law and Order UK).
And the supporting cast is equally impressive: Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Legend of Zorro, The Terminal), Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey) and Annette Crosby (One Foot in the Grave).
Ian Lavender (Private Pike) and Frank Williams (The Reverend) are the only surviving members of the original cast and Williams reprises his role as the reverend, while Lavender plays a brigadier, though both of these roles are minor and are purely a nod to the nostalgic element of the film.
The Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard are given the task of patrolling the area near the Dover Base which is an important place for the British forces, as well as finding a Nazi spy that is operating in Walmington. The Dover Base contains inflatable tanks which was an actual tactic used by the British to confuse and deceive the Nazis prior to the Normandy Landings. The inflatable tanks were part of Operation Fortitude, which was part of a broader strategy used by the British called Operation Bodyguard.
There are many comedic moments that elicited raucous laughter from the cinema audience, which contained viewers of all ages but a great number of pension-age viewers making a rare visit to ‘the pictures’. I myself went with my parents, and my Dad rarely goes cinema, the films he has seen at the cinema are Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and War Horse. Rather than the composed and professional soldiers of War Horse, we had the blundering Captain Mainwaring. The funniest scene which I particularly enjoyed was the scene where Mainwaring is discussing the Dover Base plans, and he ends up being flipped over when moving the board with the plans on.
Nostalgia features in the film through catchphrases like Jones’ “Don’t panic!!!”, Mainwaring’s “Stupid boy”, Fraser’s “We’re doomed!”, Godfrey’s “May I be excused?”, as well as Wilson’s airy and charming demeanour, Pike’s childishness and Walker’s shifty dealings. The film uses this nostalgia as its base to create a film that does establish its own humour through situations which elicited many laughs from the audience. This is a film for Dad’s Army fans. It would be interesting to hear what someone who hasn’t watched any Dad’s Army episodes to hear what they thought of the film.
I’ll leave you with one of the most recognisable and quotable scenes in British sitcom history…