Arrow Video: Whiskey Galore (2016) - Reviewed

While American film studios seem intent on rebooting every major film franchise or television program from our youths, the British film industry in turn have been more or less doing the same with their eclectic library of classic period dramas.  Such are the sheer numbers of remakes of British classics happening that BBC film critic Mark Kermode even posted a video on the subject and whether they could be considered remakes or merely reinterpretations.  Having recently remade Far from the Madding Crowd and My Cousin Rachel, the latest British classic to get the redux treatment is Whiskey Galore

Based upon the 1947 novel of the same name by Compton MacKenzie before being adapted to the silver screen as a British comedy two years later, the film loosely draws from a real event where a shipwreck off the coast of a Scottish Island whose inhabitants have run dry of whiskey.  Upon learning the shipwreck in fact contains 50,000 unopened cases of whiskey, the residents work stealthily to sneak the cases out from under the noses of customs and excise men.  The result is a kind of chase comedy of errors as the townsfolk encounter obstacle after obstacle while trying to avoid being discovered.

After ten years stuck in development hell and in keeping with the current trend of remaking nearly forgotten British classics, Whiskey Galore has been remade circa 2016, this time by Tara Road director Gillies MacKinnon who reunites with leading man Eddie Izzard and co-stars Gregor Fisher, Sean Biggerstaff and Naomi Battrick.  The names and events are kept the same with some slight deviations from the source though director MacKinnon doesn’t consider the film to be a remake due to the contemporary cinematic approach.  Visually the film is breathtaking thanks to the Irish countryside locations and performances are generally good with Izzard doing the most heavy lifting as a hapless Captain who can’t seem to keep up with the whiskey thieves’ gamesmanship. 

Fans of the novel and 1949 film will come away having enjoyed the lighthearted romcom fare while others may find the proceedings to be too vanilla for their liking.  Overall it’s a cute story worth hearing and an often funny one, and yet at the same time comparatively I found it less engaging than the aforementioned remakes of My Cousin Rachel and Far from the Madding Crowd, which demanded a bit more homework from the viewer.  As for American moviegoers, it’s a renter but maybe one day PBS will include it in their ongoing Masterpiece Theater program.

- Andrew Kotwicki