Whiskey Galore!

Review by Amy Bowker

Directed by

Gillies MacKinnon

Starring

Eddie Izzard Ellie Kendrick Tim Pigott-Smith

Anticipation.

Why fix what wasn’t broken to begin with?

Enjoyment.

Clunky and affected, with too little drama to carry the narrative.

In Retrospect.

Maybe stay at home with a bottle instead…

This remake of the quaint Ealing comedy caper from 1949 fails to justify its existence.

Towards the beginning of this quaint Scottish comedy by Gillies MacKinnon, a mother complains to her son about the “ungodliness” of using telephones on the Sabbath. “Mother,” the son pleads in response, “we must move with the times.” It’s a throwaway line, but it encompasses the film’s eventful downfall, as Whiskey Galore! is a film that has not moved with the times. This unnecessary remake is formulaic and affected, failing to recapture the playful mischief embodied by its beloved 1949 forbear.

As with the original, this is a small-town comedy based on Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel of the same name. The story unfolds on an imaginary Hebridean island during World War Two, where the community’s whisky ration has run dry. That is until a cargo ship carrying 50,000 cases of the stuff washes up on the rocks. The whisky is recovered and the town rejoices. Home Guard warden Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) then spends the entire film on the hunt for eccentric, whisky-drunk villagers.

The rolling Scottish hills that provide the backdrop to the story and imbue it with a dash of much-needed colour, while cinematographer Nigel Willoughby successfully conjures up the perfect candy-coloured island for the community to inhabit. There’s a comfort and softness to the aesthetic as each interior doused in a warm, nostalgic glow. Yet it’s these over-saturated colours and dated costumes that cheapen the whole affair. The end result irretrievably old-fashioned and all too reminiscent of a clunky TV drama.

The film’s central character (and awkwardly, it’s omnipresent narrator) is postmaster Macroon (Gregor Fisher) who spends the majority of his time worrying about his daughters (Naomi Battrick and Ellie Kendrick) marrying two very charming men, even though there’s blatantly little cause for concern. The postmaster’s daughters, intended to be the film’s relatable moral anchors, might just have been its redemption. But these performances feel more like old-timey dress-up than anything more valuable, with a lot of faux-Scottish rolling ‘R’s thrown in for good measure.

On balance, the message McKinnon is trying to communicate is not unwelcome – it’s a simple tale of a community rallying together to break the rules and resist pompous authority. He treads comfortable territory but, notwithstanding Izzard’s best efforts, the film falls far short of ever being laugh-out-loud funny. With a more charming cast or less oblique storyline, Whisky Galore! might just have been a perfectly decent way to spend an rainy afternoon. As it stands, the film fails to do justice to its source, lacking the heart and humanity required to justify bringing this story back to life in 2017.

Published 19 May 2017

Anticipation.

Why fix what wasn’t broken to begin with?

Enjoyment.

Clunky and affected, with too little drama to carry the narrative.

In Retrospect.

Maybe stay at home with a bottle instead…

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