It’s been nearly 40 years since Dad’s Army finished it’s initial run on television. Through re-runs and DVD sales, it’s been passed down through generations and still has a large following today. Does the new feature film follow in the high steps of the television show or does it sink like so many film to television adaptations?
Dad’s Army stars Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Gambon and Blake Harrison and is directed by Oliver Parker. Based on the highly successful TV show, the film follows the Home Guard of the small seaside town, Walmington-On-Sea, as a Nazi spy threatens to pave the way for an invasion.
While much of the acting is superb, it’s sometimes let down by the casting. Some actors, such as Toby Jones or Blake Harrison are the spitting image of the former roles, adding to the sense of nostalgia, but others, like Bill Nighy or Michael Gambon just feel flat and out-of-place somewhat. Gambon especially, who plays fan-favourite Godfrey, just seems to be playing himself rather than performing. It seems a waste of good source material when paired up against some incredibly lifeless acting.
The script, by Hamish McColl, whose previous work includes Mr. Bean’s Holiday and Paddington, capture the spirit of the TV show and has a very British sense of humour throughout. The BBFC have rated the film as a PG for, “mild bad language, violence and innuendo”. The violence is mostly slapstick and in the finale when a simple chase turns into a multi-tiered gunfight (which incidentally is one of the funniest parts of the film for its sheer absurdity) has no blood, so it’s a film that the whole family can go to and they’ll be able to laugh at the jokes targeted at them. The innuendo is what fuels most of the jokes in the film, but a lot of them are hit-and-miss, leading to a lot of awkward silences or at least a roll of the eyes instead of a laugh.
The story is as basic and played out as you might expect. I distinctly remember the film’s plot being the plot of several of the episodes of the TV show, just with slightly different outcomes. Within five minutes of the film starting you’ll know how it ends, which is quite sad since for such a well-loved and long-running franchise, it smacks of laziness that they didn’t put a more thoughtful or at least a more developed story on screen. The film’s run time is only 100 minutes, meaning it’s pretty short in comparison to the rest of the cinema’s output, but there are still scenes in there that go on for way too long or just don’t add anything to the film. There is a love story between three/four characters (which again was a plot in the TV show) and here it just sits and does nothing original or interesting with the idea, bar one scene which is ripped straight from The Importance of Being Earnest.
The film also at times looks pretty shoddy. Some scenes, like a wide shot during a patrol on the seaside cliffs of Bridlington are quite nice, but others have an odd haze about them. On natural light was used in the film which may have been the reason why most of the indoor scenes have this golden filter rather than a clear picture. Natural light may have been used well in The Revenant, but it doesn’t look good for you Dad’s Army.
In the end, Dad’s Army has its problems. The story is paper thin, a majority of scenes aren’t lit properly and some actors just seem to be going through the motions. But the jokes, along with a healthy dose of nostalgia bring it around.
Score: 6/10 Can’t give it a higher score, but it’s a recommendation for the family.