I WAS astounded by the level of disappointment experienced by the drudgery of viewing the newly released re-make of Whisky Galore.
One of the most factually amazing stories, which inspired one of the best comic novels, which in turn was the seed of one of the finest film comedies of the 20th century, has been well and truly torn to bits, mixed up, had the guts of it removed, been blindly thrown back together with an end result that is as funny as filling in a tax return with toothache.
Throughout the duration of the film, not once did I even crack a smile, far less laugh. My fellow audience members concurred with only a few nervous and short ripples of embarrassed chuckle throughout the duration from around 200 attendees.
There is a very fine line when caricaturing an ethnic group in comedy, and Compton MacKenzie in his book and the makers of the original Ealing Studios film hit the balance perfectly.
The suspension of disbelief was allowed to flow throughout both book and film, and the portrayal of islanders, albeit with essential comic exaggeration, was authentic.
Not so with the new one. It has lost all sense of authenticity of characterisation with regards the islanders and what is left is a sneering, snide, arrogant interpretation of a very clever and able population and is, in fact, verging on being racist. Even the policeman, customs officials and crew of the SS Politician lack enough realism to be able to carry the story.
The script was so poor, that I wonder whether the writers actually got the jokes of the original. There were a number of scenes where the story carried the general situation but the actual punch lines had been removed – or worse, put in the wrong place!
For example the look on Joseph MacRoon’s face in the original when Captain Waggett is happy to accept lemonade instead of a dram, is a classic moment. The scripting for this scene in the new version is as if the nuances and numerous contributing parts and subtleties of comic genius in the original went totally over the heads of the re-makers.
With a better script Eddie Izzard would have made an excellent Captain Waggett and likewise with Gregor Fisher’s portrayal of the wily post-master Joseph Macroon, but even a cast of good actors could not drag this dull mess into anything close to comedy. The additions of weak narrative threads as an attempt to add drama, brought the end result even further away from amusing. The music, too, was a sorry shadow of the original, with the only highlight, in fact the only highlight of the entire film, being when there was a shot of Fergie MacDonald playing the button box.
But not even Fergie was enough to save this film. Mairi MacInnes’s singing was, as always, beautiful, but the track was just not right for the intended purpose.
I have watched the original many times and have laughed out loud every time throughout. It has inspired some very notable escapades, and always puts one in the mood for a good dram! The new one is enough to put me off drinking whisky!
As therapy I am going to take my accordion and go to Castlebay Bar for a week with Andy and Mìcheal from the Vatersay Boys! In fact, it would be a good move for the makers of this dripping wet blanket of a film to do the same. They might then get what the original book and the film was about.
If you are going to take the mickey out of islanders, you should make sure you understand them and make sure it is funny.
What the makers of this disastrous drudge have done is akin to adding half a pint of Fanta, some tomato ketchup and a bag of marshmallows to an aged and beautiful single malt.