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dir Oliver Parker
scr Hamish McColl
prd Damian Jones
with Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Daniel Mays, Blake Harrison, Bill Paterson, Mark Gatiss, Felicity Montagu, Alison Steadman, Annette Crosbie
release UK 5.Feb.16
16/UK Universal 1h40
Band of brothers: Jones, Harrison and Mays
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on the 1970s British sit-com, this WWII comedy could have picked up new audiences if it had even a hint of inventive wit. Sadly, while the script is decent and the cast strong, the film is directed without any pacing. Jokes fall flat and physical antics are painfully unfunny. Which leaves the war stuff feeling oddly dull.
In the south coast village of Walmington in 1944, banker Mainwaring (Jones) is the captain of the local Home Guard volunteer platoon, made up of retirees (Courtenay, Gambon and Paterson) and young men (Mays and Harrison) who couldn't join the regular army. All have normal day jobs and bumble their way through being soldiers at night. When the sexy journalist Rose (Zeta-Jones) turns up, each of them is so smitten that he fails to notice that she's the Nazi spy the local colonel (Gatiss) has warned them to be on the lookout for.
Rose's duplicity is hinted at in her first appearance and revealed in her second scene, so no spoilers there. And this is a key problem: the movie is designed merely to depict the idiocy of amateur soldiers. And it doesn't even do that very well. The opening scene, in which they chase and are chased by an escaped bull has absolutely no comedy value whatever, shot and edited without even a hint of coherence. The entire film is just as flat, including the sometimes witty Carry On-style innuendo-leaden dialog.
The A-list cast just about emerges with their dignity. They clearly saw potential in the script, so gleefully dive into their characters. Jones has terrific hang-dog energy as the over-serious leader clashing with the ever-so-posh Nighy. Gambon and Courtenay play subtly with their dopey characters, while Mays has some fun as the fast-talking Frazer and Harrison merrily quotes iconic movies as the simple-minded Pike. Zeta-Jones, meanwhile, does her enjoyable slinky seducer routine.
But director Parker misses every chance for humour or intrigue. From the throwaway one-liners to the big action-chaos, nothing is captured properly on-camera, so the movie feels like it was assembled with whatever random elements the editors could find. Many of the key set-pieces feel random and irrelevant, including the reference to real-life dummy tanks and the awkward U-boat climax. Perhaps fans of the TV series will find things that make them laugh. For the rest of us, the script and cast elicit a few giggles here and there; otherwise this is a missed opportunity.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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