Those who watched the British TV series in the 1970s will remember it fondly as being a terribly good-natured, light-hearted and most often amusing take on life in the Home Guard during WWII. “Who do you think you are kidding, Mister Hitler?” rang out the theme tune, and of course the joke is that the real fools are Captain Mainwaring and his ragtag bunch of well-meaning imbeciles.
Quite why something so undeniably “of its time” has been made into a feature length movie now is a far greater mystery than the identity of the German spy hidden in Walmington-on-Sea. There, our band of old-timers and young dafties practises drill every day, in anticipation of encountering the Hun on their doorstep. But when the glamorous Rose Winters (a luscious Catherine Zeta-Jones) arrives in town to write a magazine story about them, the would-be soldiers find they are easily distracted from duty.
The superb lookalike casting seems to include every famous British male actor ever, from Bill Nighy and an excellent Toby Jones to Michael Gambon and Tom Courtenay, each nailing the spirit of their character’s previous incarnation. Similarly in keeping, the dialogue is family-friendly, and the plot (such as it is) is gentle and inoffensive.
But to that end, the film just doesn’t engage and it certainly doesn’t raise more than a charitable smile. As wonderful as it could be, harking back to the good ol’ days (when you had to warm up the telly a few minutes before you wanted the picture to come on), Dad’s Army is less of a trip down memory lane than an initially optimistic meander down an overgrown path when you should have just taken the road.
It’s a shame, because other old TV shows have recently been reinvigorated with aplomb (The Man from UNCLE, for example, clearly demands a sequel). But with this lacklustre plot and dearth of funny lines, it seems that Mainwaring’s crew have sadly had their day.