Overview: The Scottish Island of Todday finds their whisky drought broken when a ship carrying thousands of bottles runs aground off their shores. Arrow Films; 2016; Rated PG; 98 minutes.
Retread: A remake of the 1949 Ealing classic, Whisky Galore! is a retelling of the classic story of the island of Todday which, upon running out of whisky, falls into a deep depression until a ship runs aground off their coast carrying 50,000 cases of whisky. After very little soul-searching they steal the whisky and have to hide it from over-enthusiastic home guardsman Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) and the customs people. The 1949 version is a classic of English cinema that was released a few years after the war while rationing was still fresh in people’s minds, while this new version keeps the period setting but doesn’t make any real attempt to update the story for a modern audience. I’m not saying that I want something bang up to date in which Brexit has cut off the whisky supply, but the new Whisky Galore! never really does anything to justify its existence.
Toothless: This movie is a perfect accompaniment to going to your granny’s on a Sunday afternoon, drinking tea and eating scones while being asked how work is going and hearing the latest gossip about Gladys down the road. It is inoffensive and non-confrontational. The villains are inept rather than evil, the love stories begin at the point where they’re ready to get married, and the movie seeks to avoid conflict at all points so there is never really any doubt that everyone will get to live happily ever after. Also, while the premise and marketing promise a movie about the islanders needing to constantly and inventively hide their whisky haul from the authorities this barely registers as a plot point until the last twenty minutes during a low-speed car chase and a shrug of a finale. The real plot is all about Mr. Macroon and his fear that once his daughters marry they’re going to leave him all alone. This is a more compelling plot but it is constantly derailed by the movie’s mission to not raise blood pressure in any way so any hint of conflict is quickly squashed. Essentially, the girls want to get married so their father puts up a slight roadblock for one of the suitors and that’s it.
Performances: However, even though the tone of the movie didn’t grip me, the performances did. Eddie Izzard and Gregor Fisher in the leads are great, with Izzard being charming enough that his inept stiff upper lip character came across as likable rather than a villain, while Fisher gets some great emotional beats out of his character’s fear of loneliness should his daughters leave him. The supporting cast are all game and, while some Scottish accents were a bit ropey, there wasn’t a duff note in the whole thing.
Overall: Even at 90 minutes this movie felt too long and there was a lot of time spent setting up the whisky drought before the SS Cabinet Minister ran aground. The movie plods along with no real hindrances to the characters that aren’t solved immediately or that seem as though they’re going to be too much trouble for them to deal with. It’s a feel good, light-hearted movie but a little but more conflict would have made it a lot more watchable.
Featured Image: Arrow Films