A phoney war

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

Toby Jones and Cather­ine Zeta-Jones in Dad’s Army

DAD’S ARMY Di­rected by Oliver Parker. Star­ring Bill Nighy, Cather­ine Zeta-Jones, Toby Jones, Tom Courte­nay, Michael Gam­bon, Blake Har­ri­son, Daniel Mays, Bill Pater­son. Cert PG, gen re­lease, 99mins TheWalm­ing­ton-on-Sea Home Guard pla­toon has sel­dom looked shab­bier. And not in a good, comic way. It’s 1944 and as the Al­lied forces are gear­ing up for a last push, MI5 agents have traced a rogue ra­dio trans­mis­sion em­a­nat­ing from the coastal English town pop­u­lated by Cap­tain Main­war­ing’s makeshift pla­toon. Might a newly ar­rived and im­pos­si­bly glam­orous jour­nal­ist (Cather­ine Zeta Jones) be mes­sag­ing Ber­lin?

Sadly, the men are too daz­zled by her Chanel suits and charms to no­tice. And so the Ger­man spy is al­ter­nately courted by Main­war­ing (Toby Jones), his Oxbridge neme­sis Sergeant Wil­son (Bill Nighy), res­i­dent spiv Walker (Daniel Mays) and the guile­less Pike (Blake Har­ri­son).

When the new Dad’s Army sticks to old jokes, it serves some pur­pose. To this end, there are lovely, silly sup­port­ing turns from Tom Courte­nay as the flap­pable Cor­po­ral Jones, Michael Gam­bon as an­cient God­frey and Bill Pater­son as Pri­vate Frazer.

But too of­ten we’re stuck in tea shops on dates with Mrs Dou­glas. The film’s at­tempt to ac­cord more screen time to the wives who were sel­dom – and in Mrs Main­war­ing’s case, never – glimpsed in the orig­i­nal se­ries, is com­mend­able, but it does rather muddy the orig­i­nal alchemy. That goes dou­ble for the Main­wear­ing-Wil­son ri­valry: Toby Jones chan­nels Arthur Lowe’s in­verted snob­bery with aplomb, while Bill Nighy chan­nels Bill Nighy, thereby ren­der­ing the film’s many class jokes en­tirely im­po­tent.

Even with Jones bark­ing the beloved catch­phrase “you stupid boy”, fans of the TV show will likely be dis­ap­pointed and new­com­ers will likely be baf­fled. Dad’s Army was an im­prob­a­ble hit 40 years ago. Now, even the far­ci­cal mo­ments look far­ci­cal.

Who do you think you are kid­ding, fake Dad’s Army? STRANGER­LAND Di­rected by Kim Far­rant. Star­ring Ni­cole Kid­man, Joseph Fi­ennes, Hugo Weav­ing, Lisa Flana­gan, Meyne Wyatt, Mad­di­son Brown, Ni­cholas Hamil­ton. Cert 15A, se­lect re­lease, 111mins Ir­ish cin­e­matog­ra­pher PJ Dil­lon brews up a ter­rific storm – lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively – as mar­ried cou­ple Cather­ine and Matthew Parker (Ni­cole Kid­man and Joseph Fi­ennes) are over­taken, then en­gulfed in red dust while driv­ing through their re­mote Out­back town. The storm adds to their grow­ing panic: their chil­dren – in­clud­ing the co­quet­tish 15-year-old Lily (Mad­di­son Brown) and her younger, de­pressed brother, Tom (Ni­cholas Hamil­ton) – have dis­ap­peared with­out trace.

It is al­most as if the same red earth has swal­lowed them up, a no­tion later re­in­forced by an el­derly lo­cal: “First it was the white ones, then it was the black ones; kids go miss­ing out here. It’s the land.”

Per­haps, but the sex­u­ally

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