Saturday 23 July 2016

Dad’s Army

Imagine a world where classic shows like Dad’s Army can be left alone, safe in the knowledge they’ll never be updated or remade. What a beautiful world it would be. But these days, nobody is safe. Rich, greedy film-makin’ bastards are always looking for a way to make a quick buck. In 2016, Dad’s Army fell prey to the film industry machine and got the update it so gravely didn’t need. But you know what? It was nowhere near as bad as it could’ve been.

For those few who don’t know the original series, Dad’s Army followed the Home Guard (a platoon of local volunteers ineligible for military service, often due to age) in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea during World War II. The laughs came from the bumbling ragtag platoon’s incompetence, and with 9 seasons regularly gaining 18million viewers, it was an enormous success. Nowadays, it’s sitcom royalty and a beloved piece of British heritage. We all thought it was untouchable. But then this remake came along…

Out now on DVD & Blu-ray, this Dad’s Army has one thing going for it that elevates it from desperate cash-in to somewhat respectable cash-in – a bloody good cast. While attempting to recast the iconic roles so perfectly portrayed by Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier and Clive Dunn (to name a few) is an impossible task, Alex Johnson’s casting here is a masterstroke. Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring? Perfect. Bill Nighy as Wilson? Spot on. Tom Courtenay as Jones? Nailed it. Michael Gambon as Godfrey? F*cking excellent. The platoon cast played their roles perfectly and although they were never going to come close to the originals, they seemed to know that. This wasn’t an attempt to beat the original – it was a loving tribute. When this new platoon are together, you can’t help but smile. Sure, it just makes you think about the original and how much better it is – but there are worse things to think about than Dad’s Army. It’s innocent, sweet, nostalgic fun.

It’s unfortunate then that this Dad’s Army spends a lot of time away from the platoon as a unit. Why? Because we have to endure a painfully predictable plot with Catherine Zeta Jones portraying a German spy-Sorry, portraying a journalist who happens to be in town just as a mystery German spy arrives. If you didn’t predict the ‘twist’ from the trailer, I’m sorry, but you’re a fool. As if this predictability wasn’t enough, we have to sit through scene-after-scene of our Toby Jones and Bill Nighy trying to win Zeta Jones’ heart…These scenes are when Dad’s Army really lets itself down. They become farcical and almost Carry On in their delivery, and seem jarringly out-of-place. You forget you’re watching a Dad’s Army film, and thus begin to ask yourself – “what am I watching this shit for?”

But before you know it, the platoon are back together again and your smile returns. Memories of simpler times flood your mind, and when catchphrases like “don’t panic!” and “stupid boy…” start popping up, it’s like Dad’s Army bingo. Like most remakes and reboots, this film has been largely hated on principle alone. “A new Dad’s Army? F*ck off!” I hear some of you cry. But look, it isn’t trying to replace the original or improve upon it – because it knows that improving perfection is impossible. For old fans, this is like a tribute. When people go and see live performances of tribute/cover bands, they’re not expecting to see something better than the original. They just want to hear the hits. That’s what you’re getting with this Dad’s Army. It’s a tribute. It’s a cover. It’s the hits.

Dad’s Army isn’t going to make anybody sell their boxset of the TV series and replace it with this, but it shouldn’t make anyone angry either. It’s a down-the-middle trip down memory lane for a generation of people who can look back on simpler times, sat around the ol’ TV watching the little animated arrows approaching Britain. Altogether now, “who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Hitler…”

Dad’s Army isn’t a great film, but it’s a charming and innocent tribute to a simpler time. Don’t panic. This isn’t a great film, but it is nowhere near as bad as it could’ve been. 3/5.


Sam Love

Dad’s Army at CeX

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