Oliver Parker’s Dad’s Army is the latest property to be given the big screen treatment in this cinematic adaptation of the old BBC sitcom.
I’ll start by saying that I have very little familiarity with the TV series other than some half watched episodes that I came across too many years ago to remember so any attempt to capitalise on nostalgia will be completely lost on me.
My understanding is that this is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the TV series with a cast that echo the original actors and an identical style of humour that makes this feel like a continuation made for the fans.
If that’s the case then the film probably does what it sets out to do. It certainly pleased the audience that I was sitting in who laughed heartily at many of the jokes so it seems enjoyable if you already like this sort of thing.
For me it didn’t quite work as a film. I couldn’t get into the humour and found most of it tedious. There are only a handful of joke types that the film rotates through. There’s innuendo, characters being incompetent and slapstick. It didn’t take long for the whole thing to become tiresome for me.
I imagine Dad’s Army works better as a half hour sitcom as there was nothing resembling pacing in the cinematic version. The mid-section of the film drags horribly and it feels like there are far too many moving parts that don’t fit together for the story to be engaging. I wasn’t actually sure what the film was supposed to be about at certain points due to the excessive meandering.
The cast all acquit themselves really well. Toby Jones is the lead and confidently portrays his character, Captain Mainwaring. He fully commits to the slapstick comedy to the point where I was sure that he must have genuinely hurt himself. His straight line delivery showing how utterly clueless he is at almost every turn was always on point as well.
Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon are also safe bets but so are the rest of the cast. Pretty much everyone outside of Toby Jones suffers from a lack of meaningful screen time. It’s a big ensemble and the film can’t really handle it.
Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Rose Winters has to be the most obvious spy I’ve ever seen but I’ll give it a pass as the incompetence of the characters is the running joke that pretty much defines this concept. She does a good job playing the duplicitous seductress who plays all of the men for the fools that they are but she often gets lost in the white noise that is the unnecessarily large cast.
The film looks authentic enough for being the 1940s. Most of the film takes place outdoors or in very few locations so the demands for set dressing and vehicle use are pretty low. Everyone is in authentic period costumes and the technologically primitive time period becomes the source of a few laughs.
I feel bad tearing into this film as it definitely wasn’t for me. The enjoyment level of others in my screening is probably a better indication of how well it comes across to the intended audience. I found it to be largely unfunny and poorly paced to the point of disinterest but if you’re a fan of the series then this is most likely the revival that you’ve always wanted.
• a cast that acquits themselves well
• lots of jokes that don’t work and the limited variety
• the terrible pacing