Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Review: Dad's Army

World of Blackout Film Review

Dad's Army Poster

Dad's Army
Cert: PG / 100 mins / Dir. Oliver Parker / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Ah, another Friday afternoon, another game of 'who's the youngest person in the audience?'. Although since the prize is a pocket-warmed Werther's Original, I think I'll pass, thanks.

And so, February sees the cinematic reinvigoration of Dad's Army creak audibly into our midst. Like many others, my heart sank when I heard the project had the go-ahead, but picked up again when I read the casting announcement. And then sank again when I saw the first trailer. This period re-tooling of a (pretty much) universally-loved TV show from the 1960s & 70s was always going to be a tricky beast to handle, being a high-watermark of classic comedy over the generations. But that doesn't seem to be a deterrent where movies are concerned, these days...

Well, the good news is, the film could have been far worse. The love and respect for the original source material shines through, and there's a feeling that the screenplay is as much a tribute to the spirit of Dad's Army as it is to the original cast. Toby Jones is quietly magnificent as Captain Mainwaring, capturing the blustering personality without devolving into a clichéd impersonation. And he's supported by players who clearly 'get' what Dad's Army is (The Inbetweeners' Blake Harrison is great as Pvt Pike too, I have to say).

And there the praise runs out, unfortunately. While the film is a pleasant enough distraction, it rarely provokes more than a smirk, never mind the chortles and guffaws which should accompany a title like this. Writer Hamish McColl seems to have taken the timeless nature of the TV series as a license to not attempt anything remotely new, and the film suffers as a result. Far from trying too hard to please 2016's audience, Dad's Army spends so much time tiptoeing around its own legacy that it forgets to be funny. The character-catchphrases are all present and correct and not flogged to death by any means, but there's still the feeling of a box being ticked each time one lands*1.

What the film left me with wasn't the feeling of a wasted opportunity, but a missed one, certainly. The film's tone suggests that this could have been so much more than a winsome cover-version, but the screenplay's content has let it down. Truth be told, this isn't a film, it's a Christmas one-off TV special coming just over a month late and in a cinema instead of your living room.
But by next Christmas, it'll be £3 on DVD, so you can safely enjoy it at home then.

Oh, and Catherine Zeta Jones' scenes have been filmed with a focus so soft that I spent half the film worrying I was developing cataracts.

If you thought the Dad's Army 'mobile phone' out-take/improv*3 was cringe-inducing, wait until you sit through the end-credits a cappella*2 ensemble sing-song of Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler.

Engineers are currently devising a way to effectively harness the near-infinite energy being created by Bud Flanagan spinning in his grave...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I have no idea. I mean, not even Dad's Army, and that's the point of it, so…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Dad's Army stars Toby Jones, who played Dr. Arnim Zola those Captain America movies, which also starred Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And ironically enough, Jones' performance as Captain Mainwaring in this film seems to owe many facial ticks and mannerisms to Hugo Weaving's Red Skull in the first Cap outing Which is pretty weird when you think about it...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Incidentally, Bill Paterson's scene as dour Scot, Sgt Fraser, where he gets to rhyme off his "We're doomed!" line is the only one where he acts or sounds anything like the original Sgt Fraser, suggesting either very lax direction, or that he was cast in the role purely because he was Scottish and over 65. Neither is a particularly reassuring prospect. The same goes for Bill Nighy playing Sgt Wilson as his "Bill Nighy" character, but that's hardly a surprise. Oh, and see also Michael Gambon with his "Michael Gambon" character, although I don't think a director has ever lived who could change that state of affairs.

*2 Fear not, that comes well after the original TV version of the sig-tune. Although they've still chopped the middle-eight out of it, the bastards.

*3 It's the 'turn that phone off' short which has been running in front of Cineworld movies for the last month or so, and also appears in the closing credits of the film as an out-take, of sorts. I'm also assuming it's improvised, because there's no way someone could have written something that shambolic and ill-timed.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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