Released: 5 February 2016
Director: Oliver Parker
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones
A modern update of a classic is always a tough ask, especially a sitcom as beloved as Dad’s Army. Do the producers stick with a tried and tested formula and be labelled boring, or change it up and risk alienating the longtime fans? Dad’s Army sticks its marching boots into both camps and mostly succeeds.
As you can imagine, the film is very silly and obviously ahistorical, but let’s face it, you didn’t come here for a history lesson. Set in 1944, Captain Mainwaring and his Home Guard are given the chance to play a major part in the war effort when a German radio signal is transmitted from Walmington-on-Sea.
The seaside town is beautifully re-imagined and the new roster of actors make a good fist of emulating messers Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier, and in no way tarnish the memory of the original actors. Michael Gambon as the gentle Private Godfrey and Danny Mays as the cockney spiv Private Walker are highlights and both take to their roles with aplomb. Two of the original cast members make a return and its great to see Ian Lavender, the original Private Pike, in a role of authority for once as well as a small role for Frank Williams as Reverend Timothy Farthing. Catherine Zeta Jones brings a touch of Hollywood glamour, which helps elevate the film from just being a long episode of the sitcom.
The film isn’t massive on gags but, like the original show itself, it was always more of a gentle humour and ramping up the comedy for the big screen would have felt wrong. As the sitcom always did, the film portrays the national pride of the era immensely well and serves as a fascinating insight into the determination of the British public to protect its shores
Dad’s Army is faithful to its source material and will help attract new fans as well as pleasing the old. I smiled all the way through.