Never is there a shortage of remakes, war films, or remakes of war films, but Whisky Galore! doesn’t come strolling in with bagpipes attempting to change the game or disrupt the system. Instead, such a charming little number by director Gillies MacKinnon opts to breathe new life into the beloved 1949 classic of the same name. This time, MacKinnon splashes in color that the original lacked, only to successfully amplify the natural beauty of the Scotland scenery and preserve that familiarly playful, yet biting Scottish wit to pleasant, though mildly forgettable results.
Just off the coast of Scotland lies a humble island called Todday, where a small, tight-knit community of cartoonish characters enjoys the isolation and free-flowing whisky, which they drink like it’s nothing but water out of the faucet. These sweet folks, after all, keep a modest existence, unaffected by the noise far outside their home and wrapped up in their own simple affairs. All of this despite WWII occurring just outside of their island haven. Tragedy quickly strikes and finally touches them, however, when the bartender of the local (and only?) pub tragically announces a drought. “My quota is finished,” he says as if someone had just died. “There is no more whisky. The island is dry.”
And they don’t call whisky the “water of life” for nothing. Once the ration runs its course, life on the island is put to a halt, and panic ensues as the islanders ponder how they could possibly move on from such a crisis, going so far as to wonder if Winston Churchill himself could save the day. “A drought is a tragedy to behold,” a character laments. “It’s hardly an outbreak of dengue fever,” another says. “You’re right — it’s worse.”
Instead of intervention from the motherland, however, the heavens do answer the islanders’ prayers, coming down in the form of a ship with a whopping 50,000 cases of whisky to be sent over to America. Lucky for Todday, the SS Cabinet Minister crashes, leaving them with plenty of liquid gold for the taking.
But rescuing the poor, abandoned whisky doesn’t come as easily as they’d hoped. Standing between them and their treasure is a walking caricature of a man who goes by the name of Captain Wagget (Eddie Rizzard), who’s been sent to the island to look after the home guard. Wagget is a man of absolutely no fun, who’s all work and no play, destined to be the wet blanket for any sort of enjoyment for the citizens.
On the other hand, one of the protagonists at the center of the chaos is a Santa-like character named Macroon (George Fisher), a gentle, yet authoritative local postman. By his side are his two daughters, Peggy (Naomi Battrick) and Catriona (Ellie Kendrick), both of whom are tasked with operating the telephones and therefore know every word of the goings on in the (not so) scandalous lives of the island’s inhabitants.
Such an adventure for whisky, then, literally takes a village as the goofy band of characters take on Wagget themselves, leading them to all sorts of hijinks. Though it’s occasionally bland with some of the humor falling flat and feeling a little too predictable, Whisky Galore! brims with so much whimsy and charm that one can’t help but root for the little guys running around like maniacs for the sake of a drink. Whisky Galore! has simple ambitions, and while it may come across as too twee for many, its earnestness makes for an easy, harmless watch.