A small island village in Scotland runs out of whisky and the population is desperate, until a ship wrecks nearby. This leads a few locals to plan some less than legal activities to solve their issues.
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon and written by Peter McDougall, based on the novel by Sir Compton MacKenzie, Whisky Galore! is technically a remake of a 1949 film for which this reviewer will not be able to provide a comparison having not seen it. That being said, this version of Whisky Galore! is a fun watch. The characters are interesting small village folks who are not insultingly caricatured, they are a bit exaggerated yes, but they work. The characters are all somewhat interconnected like in most small rural areas and they know what is going on with everyone, something seen in most villages. Here they are also set in the 1940s which means that entertainment sources are more limited, giving them more of a chance to get to know their neighbors and everything around them. It also gives more reason for the local pub to be the social gathering place most popular right after church. The pub being kind of like a communal living room, when alcohol runs out, this is a major problem for them. The way this happens and is resolved creates an interesting story and a funny one at times without necessarily trying to be so. The characters are well written and the dialogue is witty without being annoyingly so.
The cast of the film is well chosen with a few familiar faces peppered throughout. The one that shines and keeps the attention in all of his scenes is Eddie Izzard as Captain Wagget, a military man trying to prepare his squadron in case of enemy invasion. His performance is very serious, he never breaks character, yet his seriousness is what causes some of the funniest situations around him while he stays unknowing. His character is a catharsis for some of the best scenes where other characters are forced to be all that they can be. Of course, this not being an out and out comedy, most of the characters are also very serious, their situations being what lends a bit of fun to the proceedings. The cast all do well and Kevin Guthrie as George is one of those characters that grabs the attention and is rather sweet to watch evolve through the film. His performance is sweet, strong, serious, and not so much at times, giving his character an edge over the rest while grabbing the viewer’s attention more than once.
The film’s mood here is very much created with the locations and the music by Patrick Doyle. The latter adds a lot to the scenes but also to the general feel of the film by sounding appropriately Scottish if that makes sense. It’s fairly happy and has just the right tone throughout the film. This is helped by the cinematography by Nigel Willoughby that shows the lovely and mostly grey locations in all their rural beauty. This adds to the feeling of being stuck on the island with not much to do that the characters give off. The way the film is shot looks just right for the story and its location.
The film being a period piece, the look of it in terms of images and the sound are important, but also the costumes and settings which here are fantastically well done. The locations are rural and show not one bit of current or recent technology while the costumes are perfectly fashionable for the early 1940s. This work by the team behind the scene helps set the tone to the film and create its own little world.
Whisky Galore! is an enjoyable film with comedic elements while maintaining a very serious tone throughout most of it, which ends up adding to the rather dry comedy and fun of it. The cast is great, Izzard shining as he usually does. It may be a remake, but it’s one of those remakes people should give a chance to.