Dad’s Army

Director: Oliver Parker (2016)

Don’t panic! Fans of the veteran TV series can stand at ease and enjoy this big screen adaption of the second world war sitcom.

It generally succeeds in it’s mild ambitions of providing charming entertainment and gentle laughs.

The director describes it as a celebration of the long running show and in respectful fashion the semi-skimmed sauce of the picture postcard humour is never crude or cruel.

Set in early 1944, the Daily Telegraph reading Nazi high rank send a spy codenamed Cobra, into Blighty.

Meanwhile the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard, led by the pompous Captain Mainwaring and the diffident Sergeant Wilson, are thoroughly unprepared.

Toby Jones and Bill Nighy step into the boots of beloved actors Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier to breathe new life into the roles.

The top rank cast are hummed into action by the familiar theme tune alongside Tom Courtenay and Michael Gambon as Lance Corporal Jones and Private Godfrey.

Privates Pike, Walker and Frazer are also present and correct.

Catherine Zeta-Jones appears as glamorous journalist Rose Winters, who wants to write a story about the platoon.

Rose captivates the men which upsets their wives, resulting a fresh outbreak of hostilities in the battle of the sexes.

Action is always just out of reach for the men, who’s sense of masculinity has already been blitzed by being unable to fight overseas with the real troops.

But as chaos predictably ensues, the opportunity arises to earn their spurs in combat.

This is as much a celebration of British nature as anything else. So there’s snobbery, curtain twitching gossips and men acting like schoolboys.

But there’s also loyalty, bravery, friendship, good humoured amateurism and a determination to does one’s bit for the greater good.

Dad’s Army is such a peculiarly British institution it would be unpatriotic not to salute as it marches on.

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Director: John Madden (2015)

In this sedate comedy drama sequel, the ex-pat British residents of the Indian hotel offer comfy accommodation and make few demands on your attention.

A colourful backdrop can’t brighten up dull goings-on as familiar faces tread a predictable path over a well worn plot.

Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) want to expand their hotel business by buying the Hotel Splendid. So they travel to San Diego to meet potential investors to finance the deal.

Back in Jaipur, silver haired and silver tongued American writer Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives unannounced. Snobbish and insecure idiot Sonny is convinced he is a secret inspector sent by the investors to spy on their business.

Sonny is so pre-occupied with keeping Guy happy he neglects bridezilla fiancee Sunaina (Tena Desae), pushing her towards the handsome, wealthy Kushal (Shazad Latif).

Patel’s agitated playing grates rather than charms or entertains, Smith’s cockney charlady accent is inconsistent while Desae mostly spends her time dancing or scolding.

Meanwhile it’s all a little Are You Being Served? on the Costa Plonka as several hotbeds of passion are in full swing. Guy has his glad eye on Sonny’s glamorous mother Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey). Madge (Celia Imrie) is after anything in or out of trousers.

As Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) work up the courage to seize the day – and each other – his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) turns up.

There’s a bit of a carry on when Norman (Ronald Pickup) inadvertently hires a tuc tuc driver as a hit-man to assassinate his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle).

Among the stunning scenery of rural Jaipur there are elephants, cows and camels. Street markets bustle with hard bargaining and backhand payments. Mumbai has airports, air conditioning, business conferences and heavy traffic.

Residents are affected by the universal ailments longing, loss and loneliness but room is also found for optimism in late middle age.

The ending suggests a loss of nerve by the scriptwriters who otherwise bandy creaky knee jokes about with abandon. As well as equally creaky ones about hips, eyes, backbones and mortality.

The actors aren’t asked to exert themselves so much as to risk an injury and it’s all far too familiar to be exotic. Definitely second best, at best.

☆☆☆

About Time

Director: Richard Curtis (2013)

Having torpedoed his own ­reputation with his previous film, The Boat That Rocked, Richard Curtis does nothing to rescue his career with this twee time-­travelling comedy drama.

About Time is the writer and director’s indulgent tribute to fatherhood. Curtis is a long-time shameless magpie with other ­people’s ideas and here he’s content to ­complacently plunder his own ­material – recreating the wedding dress scene from Four Weddings And A Funeral.

Along with a wedding and a funeral, About Time has much familiar, unfunny, ‘comic’ ­profanity. Poor Domhnall Gleeson is apparently under instructions to ape Hugh Grant while a sickly-sweet voice-over is reheated from Love Actually and/or Notting Hill.

On top of all this, the actors have to wade through their scenes while gallons of syrupy music is poured over them.

In About Time, when Tim (Gleeson) turns 21 he is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in the family have a secret ability to travel through time.

By standing in a dark room and clenching his fists Tim can appear anywhere in his own past.

With incredible opportunities now available to him, Tim decides to settle down to a dull life of work, babies and playing ping-pong with his Pa.

Tim is useless with women and exploiting time travel to seduce the American Mary (Rachel McAdams) is the only ­exciting thing he does with his gift. Curtis is typically so ­uninterested in her character that his ­habitual Yank-bashing is limited to giving her dodgy hair and dowdy clothes.

Tim’s friends and family are bumbling idiots or foul-mouthed miseries that irritate as much as the wobbly camera work.

One scene takes place entirely in a blacked-out restaurant which means we’re watching a blank screen and listening to a poorly scripted radio play – filming it in silence may have improved it.

The dominant image of this film is of a sex-starved man sitting alone in a dark cupboard and gripping his sweaty palms.

Curtis has threatened to stop ­directing after this latest offering and that would indeed be about time.

★☆☆☆☆