Whiskey Galore (2017) Review

Entertaining throwback is an engaging bit of Scottish fun.

Whiskey Galore is a 2017 romantic comedy set during WWII when a Scottish island goes dry, though think their prayers are answered when a ship runs aground with a very special cargo.

Many cultures identify themselves with the food and drink of their people, most having become renowned for their cuisine. Think of the wines of France, the pasta of Italy or even the street foods of New York. For the islanders of the tiny Scottish Isle of Todday, it is whiskey. And for these collective few, nothing comes between them and it. Not even a war.

A remake of the classic 1949 black and white comedy of the same name, this update follows suit, keeping a light breezy tone mixed with a few serious moments that while set in the campaign against Hitler is far removed from it, the population barely effected by the fighting. Instead, the film deals with other matters of personal conflict among the people and delivers an often charmingly light if not mostly amusing bit of fun.

Based loosely on real events, the film sees the devoutly-religious people of the island fall under hard times when a rations ban leaves them wholly without the nectar they all so crave. With whiskey gone, they are a helpless sort and seem to lose their senses, fearing God himself has abandoned them, though that changes a few weeks later when a cargo ship heading for the United States runs aground on some rocks off shore, its holds full of whiskey. Fifty-thousand crates of it, and so, driven by their own madness for the drink, scheme to rob it and keep the loot for themselves, all the while as local subplots offer some further color.

Directed by Gillies MacKinnon, who many might best remember for the 1994 Steve Martin comedy A Simple Twist of Fate, Whiskey Galore is as much an homage to an older era of filmmaking as it is a love letter of sorts to the history and culture of the times. While the island is fictitious, the townsfolk are surely reflective of a proud people and their story, as localized as it is, and endearing simply for the obvious care it takes in reproducing a way of life now passed but well-remembered. As the film is surely one of few highs or lows, itself a talky story that indulges with great interest the many interactions of the few characters, it is nonetheless, especially by the midpoint, an engaging and pleasant watch.

Whiskey Galore
Whiskey Galore, 2017 © Whiskey Galore Movie Ltd

That is entirely due to the performances, including outstanding work by Gregor Fisher as the postmaster with two lovely daughters (Naomi Battrick and Ellie Kendrick), who is the film’s heart, a man of great integrity and loyalty to his homestead, a voice of reason and humor. His counterpart is the leader of the home guard, Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard), a man intent on protecting his island from the threat of a Nazi invasion (and finding stolen whiskey), even though that is a near impossibility, the island itself having only one road. Nonetheless, he takes to it with gusto and offers the film’s funniest moments. In fact, there’s not an off performance in the lot, with the entire cast convincing, even if the love of drink seems their only waking thought.

Whiskey Galore is an old time farce, a carefully made film that depends on the sharp dialogue and timing of the actors, its style and presentation more familiar to fans of the 1940s than that of modern cinema goers. A film about characters rather than action, it’s got plenty of good humor and Scottish music and for fans of both, makes for a nice diversion from the norm.

Whiskey Galore releases in theaters on May 12. 

Whiskey Galore (2017) Review

Movie description: Whiskey Galore is a 2017 romantic comedy set during WWII when a Scottish island goes dry and hatch a plan to plunder a stranded ship off shore.

Director(s): Gillies MacKinnon

Actor(s): Naomi Battrick, James Cosmo, Ellie Kendrick

Genre: Comedy, Drama

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