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Directed by: Oliver Parker
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Tom Courtenay, Blake Harrison, Daniel Mays & Bill Paterson
I’m a huge fan of British sitcoms, including Dad’s Army. I still watch the repeats on BBC2 and I just love the witty, cleaver dialogue. It’s highly regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time and rightfully so. We’ve seen many TV shows get the big screen treatment in the past, including Dad’s Army, back in 1971, and they’ve been mixed in quality. Looking at the cast here and it’s rich deep in the very best off British acting talent, but will that be enough to make this film watchable?
It’s 1944 and the Home Guard, led by Captain Mainwearing (Toby Jones), are preparing for the final big push into occupied France. But it’s the arrival of a glamorous journalist (Catherine Zeta Jones) that has caused a big stir on the fictional seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea. When the news breaks that a German spy has arrived on the shores, it’s up to Mainwearing and his crew to stop the spy from leaking information back to the German forces.
It’s not bad at all. I actually enjoyed it. It isn’t perfect, though. The plot is thin, I saw what was coming from the moment the opening sequence was over and the gags are patchy but the cast just make it work.
I’m a huge admirer of Toby Jones. Check out ‘Marvellous’ right now, his performance will bring a tear to your eye (I may review that film sometime down the line). He clearly is the perfect choice to take over the role which Arthur Lowe made famous.
The rest of the cast were excellent. Bill Nighy is believable as the Oxford educated Sergeant Wilson, Tom Courtenay shows shades of Clive Dunn as Corporal Jones, Bill Paterson is exceptional as the deadpan scot Private Frazer. And Michael Gambon, bless him, is so damn lovable as Private Godfrey. I may get hate mail/ death threats for this but I felt he eclipsed the late Arnold Ridley with his performance. Blake Harrison and Daniel Mays, who played “Stupid Boy” Private Pike and Private Walker respectively, were sound in their roles. Working with elite actors like Nighy, Courtenay and Gambon must have felt like a comedy master class to them.
At times the veteran actors were taken to task with some of the leaden lines by turning them into comedy gold, but they pulled it off.
Hearing the old catchphrases and seeing the two surviving members of the original cast (Ian Lavender and Frank Williams) was comforting to us older fans of the series.
Despite all the nit-picks, this is still the same quintessentially British comedy that we all know and love.
There are many reasons why they don’t make them like this anymore, but for once, I’m rather glad they did.
“Don’t panic!” This is a good film!
Rating: *** ½ (Aye, it’s canny)