Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published February 10th 2016
Don't Panic, The Home Guard Have Come to the Rescue
All Rights to DJ Films and Universal Picture
Nothing says British Comedy quite like Dad's Army. The sitcom about Walmington-on-Sea's Home Guard during the Second World War was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, and ran for a successful nine series between 1968–1977. If the show was popular back then, it is even more so today, lauding its own museum, appreciation society, and countless catchphrases embedded into our culture.
Given people's adoration, it should come as no surprise that someone decided to turn Dad's Army into a feature film. When I first heard word of this rumour, alarm bells rang off inside my head. Norman Cohen had already attempted such an endeavour in 1971 and the results were lack lustre at best. Even with the original cast, the atmosphere created in the television show just could not translate onto the big screen. Now, director, Oliver Parker was proposing the same thing, but with an entirely new cast.
There are many things that made the television series pure comedy gold; these included its enclosed world, rickety sets, laugh reel, but most of all, fans of Dad's Army grew to love the show because of the infallible dynamic between the actors: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn…you simply cannot replicate that.
Then I found out whom the esteemed actors taking on the challenge would be. With names such as Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon, maybe there was hope. As I stepped into the cinema, I set aside my expectations and decided to take the film for what it was, not what I wanted it to be, and having done that I walked out having thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Set during 1944, the end of the war is nigh, but Captain Mainwaring's (Toby Jones) men are feeling low because they aren't participating in any of the action. In fact, Colonel Theakes thinks they are all a little 'chaffy', and is considering disbanding the group entirely. An opportunity to prove themselves arrives in the form Rose Winters (Catherin Zeta-Jones), a coquettish journalist who wants to write a story on the Home Guard; but her beguiling ways stir up trouble in more ways than one.
Apart from a few scenes in which I found myself making mental editorial changes, the script is very well written and stays true to the characters. Not only is the dialogue spot on, but there are also several charming allusions back to the classic television episodes. I could easily imagine them being performed by the original cast – but of course it is not the original cast. Tom Courtenay simply is not flamboyant enough for the part of Corporeal Jones, while Bill Nighy is very wooden in his performance as Sergeant Wilson. The first quarter of the film felt as if he were just in a warm up session rehearsing lines, although there was a marked improvement as the plot progressed. On the other side of the coin, Toby Jones and Michael Gambon excelled in their portrayals of Captain Mainwaring and Private Godfrey respectively. They both sounded and moved to the rhythms of their characters without fail.
Dad's Army may not be a laugh-out-loud comedy like its television counterpart, but rather a gentle romp to be enjoyed on a lazy afternoon. If you have not previously watched the series, then the film is unlikely to appeal to you, but it will make fans smile on the inside.