If there’s a better film to watch with your father than Dad’s Army, I can’t think of it. “I was sceptical in ‘68, but it turned out to be my favourite programme,” noted mine.
Certain quarters have given this film a hard time, decrying its feeble humour and comfortingly predictable plot – involving a German spy, a hapless Home Guard platoon and lots of gags about slipping pretty women sausages – but surely that’s the whole point.
Imitation is a huge part of this remake’s appeal, and you need superlative actors to do it well. Toby Jones feels right as Captain Mainwaring. He’s got Arthur Lowe’s wonkiness and withering glances down to a tee, but his portrayal is also softer.
On several occasions, he removes his spectacles in a bid to please reporter Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones), leaving him blinking like a new-born animal. It’s the sort of thing Mainwaring would do, but in Jones’ hands, it’s heart-meltingly adorable.
Bill Nighy’s Sergeant Wilson, meanwhile, channels John Le Mesurier but he’s more risqué; unmistakeably a Bill Nighy creation. The same goes for the rest of the platoon – Bill Paterson’s morbid Fraser, Michael Gambon’s hula-skirted Godfrey, Blake Harrison’s haphazard Pike: all superb.
Mrs Mainwaring was never seen in the original sitcom, but special mention should go to Felicity Montagu who brings her to life as a kind of souped-up Hyacinth Bucket.
Writer Hamish McColl and director Oliver Parker’s Dad’s Army is true enough to the original series to satisfy long-term fans, but it also has the potential to draw in a new generation of viewers, which can only be a good thing. You might not be able to improve on perfection, but you can certainly pay very welcome homage to it.