Since it’s release back in 2016 I’d been curious about this new, big screen, version of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s 1970s TV sitcom, Dad’s Army so as it’s recently appeared on Netflix I thought I’d finally give it a watch.
The original Dad’s Army TV series was something of a fixture of my youth due to its seemingly endless repeats on BBC 2 and the fact it married a particular kind of gentle humour with remarkable wit, slapstick and character comedy – along with a couple of undeniably immortal TV moments (‘Don’t tell him Pike!’).
The opening scene here set alarm bells ringing immediately as we follow a mysterious and reasonably shifty looking chap from a train onto the streets of London, perused by a pair of MI5 agents who catch him sending coded messages via pigeon and promptly shoot him – all of which is rather out of character of what I think of for Dad’s Army.
Thankfully, after a dubiously CGI pigeon flies it way through the title sequence, we find ourselves in Walmington-On-Sea where we meet this new version of the local Home Guard on manoeuvres (of a sort) before a rather obvious and somewhat over cooked plot about a Nazi spy gets rolling largely, I hoped, so the platoon could get into some more amusing scrapes.
To make the concept fit a feature length, even if it’s not the longest movie, means some additions to the original conceit are made, including the local ATS led by Captian Mainwaring’s wife, Elizabeth (Felicity Montagu) and slightly higher stakes as it seems this is all happening in the build up to D-Day so secrecy of the plans is all the more important – mostly though this is all handled well enough.
The highlights of the film largely come from Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones) and Sergeant Wilson (Bill Nighy) both of whom do a great job of creating new versions of the characters that are true to the originals while not feeling like straight up impressions and most of the other characters have at least one amusing moment, even if they aren’t anything particularly fresh.
The humour remains suitably gentle throughout and I was surprised at how many times it did raise a laugh, so while hardly a riot, the film did it’s job of being amusing enough, though the final act, where the writers obviously suddenly realised they’d set a plot with actual stakes in motion earlier on, does fall somewhat flat though never quite as badly as it felt like it might.
The main issue with a lot of the film is it never quite feels like it’s entirely committing to anything, typified by a scene that heads towards classic farce with Wilson and Mainwairing hiding behind various pieces of furniture in the living room of the glamourous Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones) but it doesn’t go far enough to reach the level of ridiculousness needed to be fully farcical.
Ultimately then, while far from a masterpiece, Dad’s Army is a reasonably relaxing and amusing way to spend an hour and forty minutes though, if I’m honest, three back to back episodes of the original TV series would probably be more satisfying as this does feel far more like a lengthened TV programme than a big screen motion picture, albeit a well shot one.