It’s doomed I tell you, doomed

Da­mon Smith de­cides even an A-list Bri­tish cast can’t match the fun of the orig­i­nal TV se­ries

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

OW do you im­prove on the per­fec­tion of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s sit­com Dad’s Army, which be­gan ac­tive ser­vice in 1968 and re­mains a jewel in the crown of the BBC com­edy ar­chives? You don’t. If you’re di­rec­tor Oliver Parker and screen­writer Hamish McColl, you pep­per a flimsy plot that would barely stretch to one TV episode let alone 100 min­utes, with the show’s catch­phrases and pray our abid­ing af­fec­tion for the char­ac­ters will com­pen­sate for long pas­sages with­out a dis­cernible punch­line. Orig­i­nal cast mem­bers Ian Laven­der and Frank Wil­liams are con­scripted to cameo roles to heighten the whiff of nos­tal­gia.

Limp in­nu­endo-laden ban­ter about sausages barely mer­its a smirk, prat­falls are pre­dictable and a ter­rific en­sem­ble cast of gifted comic ac­tors go on pa­trol with­out an arse­nal of de­cent one-lin­ers.

From unin­spired be­gin­ning to mud­dled end, it’s a cul­tural smash’n’grab that goes through the mo­tions and will ul­ti­mately be re­mem­bered as a badly missed op­por­tu­nity.

Eng­land, 1944. The Se­cond World War is on a knife edge and in the cosy com­mu­nity of Walm­ingtonon-Sea, blus­ter­ing bank man­ager Ge­orge Main­war­ing (Toby Jones) proudly leads the lo­cal Home Guard.

His hap­less rank and file in­cludes Sergeant Wil­son (Bill Nighy), Lance Cor­po­ral Jones (Tom Courte­nay) and Pri­vates Frazer (Bill Pater­son), Pike (Blake Har­ri­son), Walker (Daniel Mays) and God­frey (Michael Gam­bon), a mild­man­nered soul who fre­quently drifts off into his own world.

The fate of the Home Guard hangs in the bal­ance when Colonel Theakes (Mark Gatiss) re­veals that he in­tends to sort the mil­i­tary wheat from the chaff and “Walm­ing­ton feels chaffy.”

Soon af­ter, Main­war­ing learns that a Ger­man spy has in­fil­trated the town and is trans­mit­ting se­crets back to Ber­lin.

This search for a traitor co­in­cides with the ar­rival of glam­orous mag­a­zine writer Rose Win­ters (Cather­ine Zeta-Jones), who in­tends to pen a flat­ter­ing ar­ti­cle about the hero­ics of the Home Guard.

Ge­orge is smit­ten and finds Rose most charm­ing and agree­able.

“They said that about the Rip­per,” coldly re­torts Mrs Main­war­ing (Felic­ity Mon­tagu), hard-nosed leader of Walm­ing­ton-onSea’s women’s aux­il­iary army, which in­cludes Pike’s mother (Sarah Lan­cashire) and Walker’s sweet­heart Daphne (Emily Atack).

Dad’s Army opens with a limp set piece in­volv­ing a stand-off be­tween the Home Guard and run­away live­stock.

“We’re sup­posed to be lock­ing horns with the Hun not Ber­tie the bull!” de­spairs one of the men, echo­ing our mount­ing frus­tra­tion.

Jones light­ens the dark­en­ing mood with a few mo­ments of phys­i­cal hu­mour, in­clud­ing chok­ing on a slice of cake, while Nighy re­lies on his usual snorts and tics for mer­ri­ment.

Mon­tagu, Lan­cashire and co bring a di­luted de­gree of girl power to pro­ceed­ings that might be dis­missed as to­kenism with­out their char­ac­ters’ piv­otal in­volve­ment in the hare-brained and lack­lus­tre de­noue­ment.

n LACK­LUS­TRE: Even a top top-notch notch cast can’t save this film fi­film ver­sion of the orig­i­nal show Di­rec­tor: Oliver Parker Star­ring: Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gam­bon, Mark Gatiss, Tom Courte­nay, Daniel Mays, Cather­ine Zeta Jones

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