Review: Dad’s Army

How_similar_are_the_new_Dad_s_Army_cast_to_the_TV_originals_

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI:Hamish McColl • PRO: Damian Jones • DOP: Christopher Ross • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: Simon Bowles • MUS: Charlie Mole • CAST: Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Mark Gatiss

Dad’s Army is a light-hearted comedy based on the sitcom of the same name from the 60s and 70s, and features an all-star cast, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, and Blake Harrison, all of whom have proven time and time again that they can easily handle comedic acting. It’s just unfortunate that their considerable talents can’t make up for the weak, toothless, and above all unfunny script provided by Hamish McColl.

Gone is the subtlety, the nuance, the class-warfare jokes, the wit of the original show, instead replaced by pointless innuendos and a plot that demands every single character act like a fool in order for it to make sense.

To the plot. It’s 1944. The Nazis are looking for information on Britain’s upcoming invasion plans, so they’ve sent in agent Cobra (Catherine-Zeta Jones, who tells them her name is Rose Winters) to uncover the plans, or something. I’m not really sure why she was sent there, but then again neither is the film, so it all balances out. Later on, characters try to credibly state that if the information she has manages to find its way to the Nazis, they could lose the war.

Now the original show had its fair share of slapstick comedy, as well, as wit and charm, and while those last two can be quite difficult to capture properly, slapstick is usually easy enough to make funny. It’s just too bad that the slapstick here is completely uninspired, often falling into the cliché territories of characters hitting their heads or falling out of windows, or flashing their genitalia at German soldiers. O.K. that last one isn’t cliché, but believe me when I say, this film executes it pretty poorly, so it still isn’t able to make you laugh, which is a pretty big failing in a comedy.

Now, that isn’t to say this film is completely terrible. The cast all do well, Gambon, Nighy, Jones, and Harrison all do their best with the sub-standard script, and did make me chuckle begrudgingly a few times, and Zeta-Jones does extremely well as the wily femme fatale, using her good looks and charm to get the information she needs from the oafish men of the town.

Also, on the plus side the cinematography is done well, and D.O.P. Christopher Ross deserves a lot of credit for how good this film looks, with its bright colours, brilliant shot composition, and breath-taking use of the English Countryside in order to immerse us more in this small seaside town.

But really, though, these positive aspects are in a small minority when you examine this film as a whole. As well as the problems mentioned above, the whole plot feels completely inconsequential, there are no real character arcs, and you never get the feeling that anything’s really at stake.

Ultimately Dad’s Army is a “comedy” which fails so spectacularly to amuse that it would embarrass even Adam Sandler.

Darren Beattie

PG
99 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Dad’s Army is released 5th February 2016

Dad’s Army – Official Website

 

 

Share

DVD Review: Quirke

Quirke 2D Pack Shot

 

Cathy Butler checks out this Dublin Noir, out now on DVD.

 

Dublin’s urban landscape seems to move between shades of grey rather than ‘noir’, but aspects of the drab and foggy streets of 1950’s Dublin lend themselves rather well to the genre in BBC’s crime noir thriller Quirke, based on the novels released under John Banville’s crime genre pen-name, Benjamin Black. The three part mini-series is now available on DVD, shortly after ending its run on RTE.

 

Gabriel Byrne plays the eponymous Quirke, (first name unknown, Inspector Morse style) a pathologist with a troubled past and a drink problem. He has a rocky relationship with his adoptive brother Mal Griffin (Nick Dunning), a doctor who works in the same hospital as Quirke, and a history with Malachy’s American wife Sarah (Geraldine Somerville). His 20-year-old niece, Phoebe (Aisling Franciosi), adores him a little too much, much to the chagrin of her father, Mal.

 

The series opens with the peculiar circumstances surrounding the death a young, unmarried woman named Christine Falls, whose death certificate Quirke discovers Mal tampering with in his office. Mal has listed the death as due to pulmonary embolism, yet Quirke’s autopsy suggests she may have died giving birth. As his own family is now implicated in an apparent cover-up of something that would have been scandalous in that era, Quirke must try to get to the bottom of the young woman’s death and deal with repercussions.

 

Thematically, the show hits on some of the likely subjects that such a period in Irish history would feature – the iron rule of the Catholic Church, Magdalene Laundries, unmarried mothers – while some are glossed over. The first episode is quite rigorously anti-Catholic, the various religious figures exuding caricaturish villainy as they discuss their underhand plans or obfuscate the dark truth from those who would seek to expose it. This is understandable given Ireland’s religious history, but somewhat heavy-handed nonetheless.

 

On the other hand it is difficult not to question the abundance of upper class people who feature in the narrative. Perhaps the various cultural representations of early to mid-20th century Ireland have been so populated by poverty and the working class that a representation of such a time featuring mostly wealthy and privileged people seems lacking in credibility or plausibility. The ease with which some of the main players hop back and forth to America seems a stretch, as this was at a time when ‘American Wakes’ were being held for those who emigrated as the cost of travel likely meant that most Irish emigrants would never see their families again. Perhaps this shows how far removed the likes of the Griffins were from most people in the country at the time, rather than being an oversight or narrative convenience.

 

The series features some striking visuals, with excellent use of colour – or lack thereof. In episode one,  as Quirke bumps into Sarah outside his house, Sarah’s clothes and hair are rendered in full colour against the grey background of the street behind her, in almost a Pleasantville-effect style. Similar effects used when Quirke is spending time with Phoebe seem to suggest that from Quirke’s perspective these two women are the brightest aspects of his life, being otherwise constantly surrounded by dead bodies and Dublin’s grey streets.

 

The noir-ish elements are strong throughout, with some differences. The plot is slower paced, often more concerned with Quirke’s own story than the fate of the unfortunate women. Each episode sees another young, beautiful woman dead or murdered. This trope does grow tiresome, not just in this particular production but in countless crime novels and television shows. The endurance of this trope and audience and reader appetites for it seem to suggest that it is easier to feel sorry for a beautiful young woman who gets murdered than, say, an ugly man. In Quirke, as with much other crime narrative, man must mete out justice for the poor ‘fallen women’. The idea is reinforced thematically and narratively; to ‘fall’ pregnant, a fallen woman, Christine Falls. Looked at in this way, the much used trope is effective as a tool to highlight the position of women in Irish society of the time.

 

Performance wise, Byrne fits the bill as the brooding alcoholic with a dark past. Geraldine Somerville is standout as Sarah, managing to convey in one character the woman Sarah has become due to the choices she made in her youth, as well as that girl she was when she first fell for Quirke. Somerville meshes these girlish and mature aspects of Sarah together with great artistry, making her quite compelling to watch. Stanley Townsend is a scene-stealer as the sardonic Inspector Hackett, always having time for tea and a cigarette, and an occasional ally to Quirke’s endeavours. Hackett is possibly one of the most likeable characters, my only complaint being he wasn’t featured prominently enough.

 

All things considered, Quirke makes up with its strong visuals and capable cast what it is lacking in its narrative. If anyone has ever wondered what ‘Dublin Noir’ would look like, Quirke would hit pretty close to the mark. A certainly unique and interesting take on the genre.

 

With a combined running time of 270 minutes, the double disc  of Quirke is available to buy on DVD from 7th March from select stores nationwide, including: Tesco, HMV, Xtra-vision, Golden Discs and Tower Records (Dublin).

Quirke DVD is also available to buy online from www.elementpictures.ie/shop

 

 

 

 

 

Share