Years ago I went to an amateur dramatics society’s version of the BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo.
It wasn’t up to much.
But it was still performed better than the new Dad’s Army film.
What made Captain Mainwaring a memorable TV character was not how he was written, but how Arthur Lowe portrayed him; it was his comic timing and pomposity that made him funny. The same goes for all of them. Mostly – with the possible exception of Clive Dunn – the actors were playing extensions of their own selves.
And so any remake without that original cast obviously comes with the risk that the new actors will simply be doing impressions, rather than playing the characters.
That’s exactly what happened.
But they weren’t just doing impressions, they were doing terrible impressions.
Well, they didn’t all do impressions I suppose. Bill Nighy just played the same character he plays in every single thing he’s ever been in; he played Bill Nighy.
Apart from him though it was like a bunch of actors who shared the physical characteristics (or in the case of the bizarrely cast Bill Paterson, shared the same nationality) of the original cast were given a Dad’s Army boxed set and told ‘Just copy them’.
With that said, the worst of the lot was the supposedly respected actor Sir Tom Courtenay’s attempt at Corporal Jones. I’ve never seen anything like it. Perhaps the problem was that instead of hiring a younger man and dressing him up as an older one, they just cast a tired old man who could barely get the words out.
It was all just rather sad.
And it wasn’t funny either. Though I heard the occasional laugh in the cinema today – and indeed almost chuckled myself exclusively at some of the lines from Michael Gambon’s Private Godfrey – the 100 minutes played out in front of silence. That’s never a good sign for a comedy.
Partly this was down to the acting, and partly it was because they tried to recreate the style of humour of the original without an audience to laugh at the jokes. It was never going to work.
The only credit I’ll give Dad’s Army is that the plot – basic as it was – worked. Catherine Zeta Jones played a Nazi spy working undercover as a magazine columnist doing an article on the Home Guard. Naturally she managed to string the troops along for most of the film until it comes to a head in a reasonably exciting final 20 minutes.
But that’s not nearly enough to cover up for the flaws here.
I think they should just have left Dad’s Army alone. It’s repeated often enough and will simply never be bettered.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.