This was doomed from the start. PANIC, Mr Mainwaring!
The perfect cast. The wrong script. A real bomb.
The Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon deal with a visiting female journalist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a German spy as World War II draws to its conclusion.
Dad’s Army was (and still is) one of the best sitcoms I’ve seen. I was introduced to it (ironically) by my dad and still laugh at the same old scenes and one liners despite knowing every word. It may have been a silly (and dated) show about a bunch of old boys and misfits guarding the cliffs of Dover BUT it was funny.
Not many British sitcoms have fared well making the leap to the big screen and a remake? Well, the less said, the better. When I heard that a remake was on the cards, I was puzzled. Why? Have we really run out of ideas? However, my doubts were relinquished slightly when the cast were revealed. Doubt soon turning to excitement.
BUT that feeling was soon extinguished. Tragically, this failed to stand alone as a homage to the iconic series. The frenetic opening sequence with a couple of MI5 agents chasing a German spy was hardly funny BUT got things going as a piece of important code that “could end the war” landed on the cliffs of Dover with our loveable misfits.
A training exercise to retrieve an escaped bull with the camouflaged covered codgers was hardly laugh out loud BUT it delivered a smile. It was just a shame that there wasn’t enough of those moments.
Toby Jones (Captain America) certainly looked the part and didn’t do a bad effort as Captain Mainwaring. BUT he wasn’t old enough or strong enough. He was far too high pitched and squeaky. It felt like a case of grabbing the smallest oldest British actor they could find. BUT it was always going to be tough to follow in Arthur Lowe’s footsteps.
Daniel Mays (Atonement) played the spivvy Private Walker very well BUT then for anyone whose familiar with his previous roles, this was hardly going to be a stretch. Blake Harrison, on the other hand, was dreadful. On paper, you would have put money on ol’ Neil from the Inbetweeners delivering as simpleton Private Pike. BUT he was highly unfunny and irritating as hell. A running gag involving an obsession with Errol Flynn flicks never got going and failed to deliver one funny quip.
However, plaudits must go to Tom Courtenay (45 Years) and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter). I wasn’t sure what to expect from Courtenay. He was superb and channeled his inner Clive Dunn. He was brilliant. Bumbling and fumbling away. Gambon was delightfully naïve and bashful as Private Godfrey. Standing in Hawaiian gear with a cheesy grin. A curtsy and “a thank you sir” and I was chuckling. I would have been happy to watch these two for the next hour.
However, their absence in the movie left a gaping hole for laughs and gags. What didn’t help was that we had such a dull story line with the gang chasing after Zeta Jones’ flirty journalist.
It was funny at first with every one trying to woo and impress her BUT after half an hour, I was bored. Bill Nighy was disappointing as Sergeant Wilson. There wasn’t enough camaraderie between him and Jones’ Mainwaring. There was too much time spent on him pining for Zeta Jones. Her return to town sparking old feelings.
Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) was wasted as Wilson’s love interest. A great actress left moping and whining. Shame. I couldn’t remember if the Women’s Front was tackled in the sitcom and it would have been a fresh angle if they had better material.
Disappointing considering the talent. A great cast consisting of the likes of Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey), Annette Crosbie (One Foot in the Grave) and Emily Atak (The Inbetweeners). Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge) did her best with the terribly OTT Mrs Mainwaring. BUT we already had a bunch of old fellas fumbling and falling about to no avail, we didn’t need any more people doing it. Crosbie and Steadman’s detective solving was the only chuckle I got. The only pair who knew what was going on.
BUT then again, there really wasn’t much. The German spy twist was so dreadfully obvious that I wondered why they even bothered. Mainwaring mispronouncing German words was funny for about 30 seconds BUT died a death quickly.
The beach finale delivered a little of what I had expected from the rest of the film. Silly, stupid and funny. A case of too little, too late with Mainwaring mistaken for Churchill. The gang trying to fight with disastrous results. Bill Paterson (Outlander) only got to shine as Private Fraser in this scene. His inevitable catchphrase didn’t quite have the same gusto as John Laurie. Otherwise he was quite weak.
I really wanted this to work BUT it merely delivered moments. Dud’s Army, I’m afraid. The hammy plot bored me that much that I didn’t even clock Ian Lavender’s cameo. This was doomed from the start.