|'A faithfully straightforward if disappointingly uninspired feature-length adaptation of the classic BBC sitcom'.|
If you're going to revive a vintage television franchise for the big screen after nearly forty years, you need solid grounds for doing so. And therein lies the key problem with Dad's Army, based on the much-loved British comedy series that ran for almost a decade during the '60s and '70s: director Oliver Parker not only fails to come up with a convincing reason for its existence, but also never feels all that concerned with finding one.
Dad's Army is neither reboot nor pastiche, instead offering a faithfully straightforward if disappointingly uninspired feature-length adaptation of the classic BBC sitcom. The simplistic plot concerning a Nazi agent operating from within Walmington-On-Sea that would barely fill one of the original half hour episodes is stretched thinly over the film's one hundred minutes, feeling as unfocused and bewildered as the geriatric characters playing it out.
McColl's flimsy script means it's up to Dad's Army's cast to prop the film up. However, despite being populated by several veteran British talents, the performances end up decidedly hit and miss. Tom Courtenay as Corporal Jones and Bill Paterson as Private Frazer are perhaps most disappointing, making two of the most memorable figures from the original series conspicuous only in how indistinct and forgettable they are for much of the film. Bill Nighy's version of Sergeant Wilson feels more problematic, transforming the tranquil character of the sitcom into a smarmy and self-important ladies' man who it's very difficult to like.
Balancing out these less successful performances are several pleasing new takes on classic roles. Blake Harrison does well as Private Pike, and Michael Gambon as the doddering Private Godfrey is a hoot throughout. Daniel Mays also impresses as Private Walker, carrying off the closest thing to character development seen within Dad's Army. The supporting roles are also for the most part admirably cast, with Annette Crosbie and Julia Foster proving a surprise pair of scene-stealers as Godfrey's inquisitive sisters Cissy and Dolly. Fans of the original series - likely to be making up the lion's share of the film's audience - will be pleased to know there a couple of well-placed cameos to look out for as well.
By far the most successful performance, however, comes from Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring. Whilst none of the cast can be criticised for impersonating their sitcom predecessors, Jones does a brilliant job in channelling the spirit of Arthur Lowe's Mainwaring whilst creating his own superb version of the character. The Carry On style wordplay and gentle slapstick of Dad's Army feel a world away from some of Jones' more challenging parts of the past, but that never makes his performance any less enjoyable. Whilst there are several aspects of the film you probably won't remember - plus a couple you may want to forget - Jones' Mainwaring is a shining positive at the centre of Dad's Army that will satisfyingly stick in your memory.