The year is 1944 and Great Britain is at war with the Nazis, but a big push in France is planned for June, with fleets of troops to land on the beaches and turn the tide of the conflict once and for all. However, the enemy still have their spies around, such as one in London who has a coded note of the British plans written on a liquorice paper, which he tries to pass on - MI5 are on to him, and track him to a cordoned off building where he doesn't actually meet a contact, but attaches the note to the leg of a homing pigeon and lets it loose. How will the Brits stop this now? Purely by chance, some kids are shooting pigeons for food around Walmington-on-Sea and bag it: the Home Guard couldn't have done any better.
There were a host of complaints about this remake of the classic sitcom Dad's Army from those who had not seen it, but had heard of its existence and wished to register their displeasure, but once it was released it did fairly well at the box office, mostly from those who enjoyed the repeats of the original still broadcast on television and thought, well, why not? Maybe it would recapture some of the old magic, and the cast was very good, with Toby Jones an ideal Captain Mainwaring and Bill Nighy seemingly born to play Wilson, his second-in-command, in addition to some fine ideas for Jones (Tom Courtenay), Godfrey (Michael Gambon), Frazer (Bill Paterson), Walker (Daniel Mays) and Pike (Blake Harrison).
This had already been a film in 1971, of course, part of the spate of sitcom adaptations for the big screen that never quite died away, indeed Harrison had already been part of The Inbetweeners both on TV and the movies, so it's not as if there was a lack of experience here. Writing the script was Hamish McColl, who had presented variable but at times very solid work on such Brit hits as Mr Bean's Holiday and Paddington, and it seemed in interview that everyone involved was enthusiastically endorsing a project that promised to recapture the spirit of the classic that had been so much a part of the cultural landscape in its native nation for over forty years. So why, when it was eventually seen by the public, was the general reaction "it was OK-ish" at best?
Jimmy Perry, who co-created the source with David Croft, was happy enough with the results, but the fact remained there was a gap between what he had fashioned way back when and what the twenty-first century demanded of its entertainment. Maybe it was taste shifting, though the repeats remained popular, but more likely it was that something relying on the harmony of so many different elements was going to be difficult to restage no matter how benevolent the intentions. This 2016 Dad's Army wasn’t a disaster by any means, though there was a vocal contingent who believed it was, it was just that it ironically suffered from the problems that earlier film had, and that enjoyed the services of the original cast. Something so small scale and, well, television-based was rather exposed when it was in cinemas.
This meant the casting of an actual Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones was just too dazzling for the provincial tale, fair enough the male characters were supposed to be smitten with her spy Rose, but this just made them look too much like fools when they were in effect scheming to cheat on their spouses and girlfriends with a woman who was pulling the wool over their eyes. There was a conscious attempt to bolster the female cast, so the women's version of the Home Guard were led by Mrs Mainwaring (Felicity Montagu), here seen for the first time and henpecking her husband, and they were conspicuously more sensible by comparison. But when this was all leading up to a shootout with explosions on the beach, it came across as if it was trying to serve too many masters, and perhaps a television revival with much the same cast would have been a better idea, giving the characters more room to interact in a manner that befitted so many fond memories, as the sense of a shaky facsimile was never far away. A couple of laughs, a few smiles, but it didn't justify itself. Music by Charlie Mole (with lots of call backs to the famous theme tune).