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Whisky Galore! Review

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World War II Scotland, and a remote island runs out of whisky. But the wreck of a ship nearby offers them a lifeline – if the locals can hide the windfall from the authorities.

★★★★★

This remake of the Ealing Studios classic is a gentle, restrained affair, an ensemble comedy that you might mistake for the 1940s original but for the colour. A wrecked ship delivers a cargo of much-needed whisky to a small Scottish island, but the authorities are determined to reclaim it and the inhabitants must go to extraordinary lengths to hide their booze.

Gregor ‘Rab C. Nesbitt’ Fisher is the village’s dour postmaster faced, when the ship goes down, with the looming prospect of both his strong-willed daughters (Ellie Kendrick, Naomi Battrick) getting married and leaving him. He's still sufficiently sharp-witted to turn the wrecked ship full of whisky to his advantage, twisting his would-be sons-in-law (Sean Biggerstaff, Kevin Guthrie) around his finger to help secure the cargo. Puzzlingly, director MacKinnon and his team have added a minor subplot about a red case of secret papers, which doesn't add much to anything, but there's a little light comedy as the islanders swing into action to claim their treasure.

MacKinnon spends time on his portrayal of a small, close-knit community, led by Gregor Fisher's postmaster, but proceeds at a glacial pace and in fragmentary fashion to sketch its sprawling cast of characters. Any film where humble villagers outwit officious bureaucrats — as embodied by Eddie Izzard's pleasantly blundering Captain Wagget — will have a certain charm, but despite finishing with a ceilidh, this take needed more jig in its step to match, let alone surpass, the original.

Too restrained and polite to really grip the attention, this feels more like comfortable Sunday night TV than cinematic fare.

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