The Isle of Todday off the coast of Scotland has largely been unaffected by World War II. They are too small, too remote to be bothered with. Until the whiskey runs out at least. Rationing only allows them a few bottles a month. After the last drop has been drunk, the locals got a bit crazy. One man literally dies. They can’t even have a proper Scottish wake for him without the whiskey.
Things look completely bleak until one foggy night a ship runs smashes into some rocks. Locals investigate, thrilled to discover some 50,000 cases of whiskey are the cargo. They are less thrilled when the clock strikes midnight and the Priest tells them it's the start of Sabbath and no one is allowed to work, which includes striking out in all their boats to haul in whiskey from a sinking ship. An eternity passes before Monday comes. While they wait, Captain Waggett (Eddie Izzard), the Home Guard officer, gets wind of their scheme and posts sentries near the sinking ship to ensure the whiskey is not illegally stolen. Of course, the Scotsmen devise sneaky plans to get past the English guards.
That is a terrific setup for a lively farce. By all accounts, that’s exactly what It was when it was originally made back in 1949. I’ve not seen that film but I cannot imagine it being any worse than this boring remake by Gillies MacKinnon. It's not that it is a bad film, but that it is completely unnecessary and never makes a case for its existence. The jokes come too far apart and rarely land more than slight amusement and the drama is so genteel one can never be bothered to care.
There are various subplots mostly involving young people and their desire to wed, much against their parents wishes. But these too are not interesting enough to keep the audience involved. The various schemes to get the whiskey and then to keep the whiskey from the prying eyes of Waggett (and the customs officer who arrives late in the film) have amusing moments, but they are fleeting.
It's the sort of film that you might leave playing on the television around this time of year when the family is over to amuse your grandfather (as long as he’s not seen the original as he’d likely make snide comments about it if he has). It's a pleasant film that has moments of pleasure but that passes quickly and is easily forgotten.
Audio/visuals are perfectly fine. There are some gorgeous views of Scotland (it was shot in the northern town of Portsoy) and it looks lovely and warm. The only extras are some pretty typical interviews.
Whiskey Galore! has a fun premise which could have made a very crowd pleasing comedy. It's a shame everything is so toned down as to be pleasant but very bland. It has made me want to seek out the original, so there’s that in its favor.