Director: Oliver Parker
Stars: Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Blake Harrison, Daniel Mays, Bill Paterson
Dangerous ground, this.
When you get a show that is so well loved, and has such iconic characters played by properly good actors who became the role, remaking it is always going to be a risk. You will always come up against that hard-core set of fans who are going to hate you for even trying, no matter how good the film is. You’ll get (perhaps unfair) comparisons with the high quality of the earlier stories, and you’ll get criticisms whether you try to channel the original actors or put your own take on the characters.
This is doubly so when the source material is Dad’s Army. A more iconic British comedy you’ll struggle to find, with characters that are still loved by so many, played by actors whose lives and careers became one with their role.
Given all this, how did they pull off the movie?
Well, the story was fairly simple: the Home Guard unit at Warmington On Sea are tipped off that there’s a German spy somewhere in the town. However, they are all too engrossed in their attempts to impress the beautiful reporter that lands in their midst to realise that there may just be a connection. And with D-Day fast approaching, it’s important that they find out just who is sending messages across the channel.
When I first saw this movie, I admit to being pleasantly surprised. My expectations for a dire mockery of the tv show were quickly dispelled by some of the performances. Toby Jones was very good as the bumbling Captain Mainwaring, and Michael Gambon was simply superb as the doddery pacifist Private Godfrey. And whilst the others were not up to par with the past, only Tom Courtenay as Corporal Jones really let the side down.
The script has plenty of laughs, there’s some great slapstick that would not have been amiss back in the day, and it was great to see Ian Lavender and Frank Williams back on screen.
So – what did I think overall?
Was it an unqualified success? Well, no. That would have been nearly impossible.
Was it the unmitigated disaster that so many feared? Most definitely not. It treated the characters, the legacy, and the fans with respect, and delivered a good, funny film that paid tribute to the original in a way that many remakes just don’t.