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The Average ‘Dad’s Army’ Movie
This should have been called ‘Dad and Mum’s Army’! 😀
‘Dad’s Army’ has had a long-lasting legacy, hasn’t it? It’s regarded as one of the best UK sitcom TV shows ever made, featuring the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon led by Captain Mainwaring. It lasted for nine seasons on TV and spawned into having its own radio series, movie and a stage show!
There have also been many efforts to recreate ‘Dad’s Army’ with new actors playing the characters from the series such as theatre, a behind-the-scenes docu-drama and a remake of three lost episodes from Series 2. What most of these remakes have in common is that they keep to the spirit of the show.
I really wish the ‘Dad’s Army’ 2016 movie was like that! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie when I saw it at the cinema back in February 2016. On the contrary, I had a great time. But looking back, I can see how this different take on my favourite BBC TV sitcom series doesn’t match to how great it was. 😦
I suppose that’s to be expected considering a remake won’t match to the original. But I’d like to think that the ‘Dad’s Army’ 2016 film was a success and that it recaptured the spirit of the TV show to a tee. However, the creative choices behind adapting the TV show into a new film made it less and less faithful.
And it seems I’m not alone on this. The ‘Dad’s Army’ 2016 movie received negative reviews by critics at the time it was released. With that said, was it worth the entertainment? Well…yes! I’d like to think so. There are some certain funny moments I enjoyed from watching the film in terms of the cast. 😀
I hope to explain what I found good and bad about this remake of a classic TV sitcom in movie form. It may not match to the original BBC TV show and it may not be as good, but I can definitely find some entertainment value. The creative choices for this film are very intriguing. With that said, let’s dive in!
The film is supposed to take place after the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series ended with Series 9. Though that’s rather debatable considering some continuity errors with certain characters which I’ll get into. The story takes place in 1944 and has the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon still led by Mainwaring.
The ‘Dad’s Army’ team meet a glamorous journalist named Rose Winters who visits Walmington-on-Sea to write an article on the Home Guard. Whilst trying to impress Miss Winters, the ‘Dad’s Army’ team are soon told by MI5 that a spy is within their town. Will our heroes find out who the spy really is?
Okay, so many people have pointed out that the biggest failing with this film is the special guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rose Winters. Not to say that she’s bad. On the contrary, Catherine gives a lovely performance. But the problem with Rose’s character is how she’s written and revealed as a spy!
Yeah! No sooner after she’s introduced in the film that she’s quickly revealed as a Nazi spy sending information to Germany whilst posing as a journalist. Now, I would have saved that as a surprise for the second half of the film. It probably wouldn’t have been a brilliant surprise, but at least it’d be something!
The joke goes on for too long with the ‘Dad’s Army’ team not realising she’s a Nazi spy and trying to impress her despite us as an audience knowing who Miss Winters is. That’s another issue. Most of the film is unfunny in story and characters. Like the filmmakers didn’t see the show to understand how it worked.
There’s also a love triangle (sort of) element that falls flat in the film. There’s clearly something going on between Wilson and Rose whilst Mainwaring and Pike are vying for her attentions whilst everyone else including Mrs. Pike, Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Mainwaring (Yes her! More later) are jealous around them.
In terms of the new ‘Dad’s Army’ cast, they are decent enough. They’re fun to see, although some are clearly miscast on my part. There are a lot of big names featured in this film and it’s such a shame that most of the characters are wasted in terms of the actors playing them. They’re weakly developed.
Toby Jones stars as Captain Mainwaring in the film. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind about Toby Jones’ performance as Mainwaring. I didn’t find him a perfect match to Arthur Lowe who played him on TV. But from watching the film again, I can see how he inputs his utmost energy to play Mainwaring.
Despite the film’s weak script, it’s clear Toby Jones is trying to get Mainwaring’s comic timing and slapstick right. Whilst it’s not a perfect match to how Arthur Lowe did it, it’s clearly Mainwaring here. Many critics praised Toby Jones’ performance as Mainwaring in the film. I concur as it is quite good. 🙂
Bill Nighy stars as Sergeant Wilson in the film. In contrast to Toby Jones, I found Bill Nighy pretty good as Wilson. He gets his mannerisms spot on and delivers the laid-back attitude to how John Le Mesurier played him on TV. It doesn’t mean his Wilson’s very well-written in script, but he convinced me as him.
I enjoyed how Wilson interacted with Mainwaring in the film, matching to how the double act was played in the TV series. Wilson’s relationships with Mrs. Pike and her son also echoed the TV series nicely. His relationship with Rose Winters is quite dodgy, but it did highlight intrigue regarding his past.
I’m sorry to say this, but I didn’t find Tom Courtenay’s performance as Lance Corporal Jones very good. No disrespect to the actor as I’ve seen him do well in BBC’s ‘Little Dorrit’ and the film ‘The Aeronauts’, but I didn’t feel Tom Courtenay was very convincing as Jones compared to how Clive Dunn played him.
Sometimes his delivery of Jones’ lines was off. When he says catchphrases like “Don’t panic!” in the movie, they’re barely audible, making it less memorable. I feel Jones should be more hyperactive than that, despite his old age. There were moments where Jones could be good, but they come pretty rarely.
I also didn’t feel Bill Paterson was convincing as Private Frazer in the film. As much as I enjoyed him in ‘Wives & Daughters’ and his ‘Doctor Who’ episodes with Matt Smith, he didn’t match Frazer in terms of his voice and appearance like John Laurie. I believe he was only cast as Frazer because he’s Scottish.
Frazer also didn’t have many standout moments due to the weakly-written script. There is one moment where…(sighs)…he lifts his kilt up and shows his bare bum to the Germans at the film’s climax which was very off-putting to see. Bill Paterson’s delivery of “We’re doomed! Doomed!” is good though!
Daniel Mays stars as Private Walker in the film. I enjoyed Daniel Mays’ performance as Walker as it did feel like him, matching to how James Beck played him on TV. I saw Daniel Mays before in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘Night Terrors’, but I didn’t realise he did that before ‘Dad’s Army’ till afterwards. 😀
I found Daniel Mays got the cockiness and quick-humour of Walker spot-on. He has a heroic moment too during the action-packed climax at the end. I do wonder though why Mainwaring didn’t raise Walker being absent from his Home Guard duties if this movie was to take place after Series 9 had ended.
Michael Gambon stars as Private Godfrey in the film. I honestly found Michael Gambon quite funny in the film. I found myself laughing at Godfrey’s moments from watching the film after all these years. That moment early on in the church hall where Godfrey reacted to being told that he was shot was sublime.
The moments where Godfrey spoke in German to make Jonesy angry and to distract the Germans were funny too as they were quite silly things when translated into English. Mind you, I would question why Godfrey lived in a house on Walmington street. Shouldn’t he and his sisters be living in a cottage?
Blake Harrison (of ‘The Inbetweeners’ fame) stars as Private Pike in the film. I found Pike in this movie to be rather…awkward at times. There’s still the immature behaviour in Pike’s character as was on TV, but there were times where he was pretty silly that felt pretty uncomfortable when watching the film.
This especially concerns his relationship with his girlfriend Vera (more on that in a bit); how he handles his infatuation with Rose and how he tries to imitate his movie heroes by repeating their lines and living out his fantasies. I suppose it’s meant to have him grow up as a character, but it did seem off-putting.
The rest of the cast are as follows. There’s Sarah Lancashire (who I’ve also seen in ‘Doctor Who’) as Mrs. Pike. Overall, I did find Sarah Lancashire decent as Mrs. Pike and how she interacts with Wilson and Pike. But there is too much emphasis on a romance between her and Wilson, which was not so on TV.
Mark Gatiss (from ‘Doctor Who’) stars as Colonel Theakes in the film. Why is Mark Gatiss in this ‘Dad’s Army’ film the strangest thing? I also would’ve renamed the Colonel’s character to Pritchard instead of Theakes to provide a stronger link to the TV series in terms of the Colonel played by Robert Raglan.
Alison Steadman stars as Mrs. Fox in the film. I’ve seen Alison Steadman in the BBC’s 1995 production of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ where she played Mrs. Bennett. I found her alright as Mrs. Fox in the film, but I’m curious about why she isn’t married to Jones. Didn’t they marry each other at the end of Series 9?
There’s also Martin Savage as Chief Warden Hodges in the film. I found Hodges wasted. In the TV show, he was one of the ‘Dad’s Army’s team’s antagonists. Here in the movie, he just hurls insults at them? Shouldn’t he have a larger role than that? He should have more screen time than Rose Winters!
The film also features Emily Atack as Daphne, Walker’s girlfriend (shouldn’t that be either Edith or Shirley unless her name’s changed again?) and Holli Dempsey as Vera Shilton, Pike’s girlfriend (again, shouldn’t that be Ivy Samways?) I believe an Ivy Samways girlfriend for Pike in the film would be funnier!
The film also features Godfrey’s sisters – Annette Crosbie (well-known for being in ‘One Foot In The Grave’) as Cissy and Julia Foster as Dolly. They both suspect Rose Winter’s cover as a journalist very quickly. Why they didn’t report to the police quickly instead of working it out themselves is a mystery?
And of course the film features…(sigh)…Felicity Montagu as Elizabeth Mainwaring. This is where the film fails for me in terms of being a faithful adaptation of the TV show. I disagree with this approach to the film. Mrs. Mainwaring should never make an appearance in ‘Dad’s Army’ as she never showed up on TV.
Arthur Lowe said it himself! If you show Elizabeth, you’ve destroyed her! I immediately concur with him on that. So why the filmmakers did that in the film, I can’t fathom. It just felt wrong. It was interesting to see, but I don’t believe it was the right thing to do as it didn’t stay true to the original TV show by its writers.
There’s also a ‘Mum’s Army’ element to the movie with the lady characters dressing up in army uniform which felt rather too much for me and was maybe…I can’t believe I’m saying this…too PC. There’s also Mainwaring echoes from ‘Mum’s Army’ as he’s trying to impress Rose Winters in the film.
Frank Williams also reprises his role as the Vicar from the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series in this movie. It was nice to see him, although he has aged quite significantly since the last time I saw him in the TV series. Did he age a lot in the time between Series 9 and this movie? Where’s the Verger when you need him?
It was also nice to see Ian Lavender, who played Private Pike in the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series, as Brigadier Pritchard. Wait! Ian Lavendar’s playing the Colonel-now-Brigadier character instead of Mark Gatiss in the movie? And it’s only two scenes?! So disgraceful! 😦 I enjoyed Ian Lavender’s cameo scenes mind. 😀
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘Legacy’ and ‘Women of Walmington’ featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. I found these DVD special features quite disappointing as they weren’t in-depth enough. They’re like preview features before seeing the movie.
So yeah, the ‘Dad’s Army’ 2016 film was a missed opportunity and not as good as it could have been. But it was fun to watch at the cinema. There were things about the film I disagreed with, but on the whole it’s a pleasant, harmless, good-feel film that made me appreciate the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV show even more.
A shame this movie didn’t become a success as there could have been a sequel. We could’ve had a number of ‘Dad’s Army’ movies to enjoy at the cinema had this movie taken the full-on approach of adapting closely to the TV series. As such, we’re going to have to wait a little while before that happens.
‘Dad’s Army’ rating – 5/10
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