A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dad's Army, a British release based on a very popular English sitcom that ran from 1968 to 1977, is a wartime comedy. A troupe of respected actors -- some little known for comic prowess; others who've made it a career -- have been mustered to fight for England on the homefront, with tongue in cheek, near the end of World War II. All members of what came to be known as The Home Guard, these are characters either too old or too infirm to do battle in the trenches. Instead, they're called upon to aid the Allies by patrolling the south coast of England just prior to the Normandy Invasion. Though there's light intrigue and a comic shoot-out or two (one early fatal encounter with a spy), the film is neither suspenseful nor violent; there's nothing to distract from the jokes or amusing characterizations. A bit of flirting, a mug of ale, and a hint of infidelity are the only mature elements. Still, innocent as it is, and despite watching some beloved movie actors having fun together, it's doubtful that kids will find the film engaging, relevant, or even funny enough.
What's the story?
It's 1944 in DAD'S ARMY, late in World War II. England is the key to unleashing the Allies' invasion of Nazi-dominated Europe. Plans are being made for an offensive action. On the south coast of England, the "Home Guard," (in this case, a motley crew of senior citizens and armed forces' rejectees -- those always pesky "flat feet"), led by George Mainwaring (Toby Jones), a likeable know-it-all, prepare to do their part by keeping the area secure for whatever the English have planned. Enter a reporter with movie-star good looks (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who wants to make them famous as she writes about their "work." Unfortunately, the Germans are well aware that there's about to be an all-out assault coming from English shores. Nazi security is desperate for information. Enter a spy. Will Mainwaring and company uncover the traitor who's sending messages to the Nazis? Will they bungle the job so badly that the Germans get wind of Operation Overlord -- the battle that will ultimately turn the tide of war? Or will they save the day (and at least a few marriages) along the way?
Is it any good?
Even with some of England's prime emeritus players at their silliest, this is a thin effort that fails to revive a very popular 1970s British sitcom about the Home Guard during WWII. Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, and Tom Courtenay are having a wonderful time in Dad's Army. They preen, they fall on their bums, they mug; they make the most of a conventional plot -- elderly codgers who, despite their missteps and internal squabbles, do their part to save Merrie Olde England and the civilized world from the mustache-twirling Nazis. Zeta-Jones flashes some lovely leg, flutters some lustrous eyebrows, and charms the small-town citizens. However, none of that is enough. The characters are one-dimensional. The jokes are telegraphed for miles. And there's barely an iota of suspense or a hint of ripened wit. It's hard to imagine that today's young US audiences will connect with this film, but some of the actors have real fans amongst those kids (i.e., Gambon as Dumbledore and Nighy as Billy Mack in Love Actually) so that may be enough.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between "farce," "parody," and "satire"? Which term best describes "Dad's Army?"
The fictional events in this movie lead up to World War II's most famous battle. Find out more about the Allied landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy in June, 1944. How did that event change the course of the war? Why was it so essential to keep the time and place a secret?
Why do you think audiences respond to comedies that are about serious subjects such as war and wartime? What emotional purpose does it serve to find humor in events that have life-and-death significance? Can you think of other somber events or issues that have been successfully filmed with a light touch?
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