The new Dad’s Army remake does an adroit job of pushing nostalgia buttons – the ones wired both to the sitcom’s Brits-at-their-best wartime setting and also to its golden-age-of-TV heyday. But writer Hamish McColl and director Oliver Parker aren’t quite so adept at pulling laughs out of the material. Theirs is a film elicits affectionate smiles rather than guffaws.
Which is a great shame as the actors chosen to fill the shoes of the iconic originals and play Walmington-on-Sea’s Home Guard platoon could hardly be bettered.
Toby Jones is a touching mix of pompous buffoonery and copper-bottomed decency as Captain Mainwaring. Bill Nighy brings his familiar suavity (a little too familiar, some would say) to debonair Sergeant Wilson. Michael Gambon is a joy as the gentle, doddery Private Godfrey and Tom Courteney ideal as the excitable Lance-Corporal Jones, while co-stars Bill Paterson, Daniel Mays and Blake Harrison prove excellent fits for Privates Fraser, Walker and Pike.
What a pity, then, that they’re given such ropey comic business as Mainwaring being chased by a bull or Fraser baring his bum.
As for the story, McColl (author of the hilarious Morecombe and Wise tribute The Play What I Wrote) has come up with a serviceable vehicle for the Dad’s Army band, here sent into a tizzy by news of a Nazi spy in their midst and by the arrival in the town of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s glamorous reporter.
In places, admittedly, the plot creaks as much as Jones’s delivery van but it gets everyone from A to B intact. A modest accomplishment, to be true, but somehow a fitting salute to a show celebrating the British art of muddling through.
Certificate PG. Runtime 100 mins. Director Oliver Parker
“I’d be lying if we weren’t daunted…” Watch our interview with Toby Jones & Catherine Zeta-Jones
We’d have been stupid boys not to do it…” Watch our interview with Blake Harrison & Daniel Mays
“There was huge potential in the characters…” Watch our interview with director Oliver Parker & writer Hamish McColl.