Whisky Ga­lore!

WHISKY GA­LORE!, com­edy, not rated, The Screen, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Jonathan Richards

If you’re a purist fan of Whisky Ga­lore!, the 1949 black-and-white Bri­tish com­edy about a cargo of whiskey ship­wrecked off the coast of an is­land in Scot­land’s Outer He­brides, you may not find much to drink to in this gen­tle, agree­able color re­make by Gil­lies MacKin­non. The original, which was also re­leased un­der the ti­tle Tight Lit­tle Is­land, was di­rected by the great Alexan­der Mack­endrick (The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Suc­cess), and it’s a clas­sic. But for later gen­er­a­tions un­likely to be haunt­ing the old movie vaults (it’s for sale on Ama­zon, but Net­flix seems never to have heard of it), there’s a rea­son­able ar­gu­ment for a re­make.

It’s de­rived from a true story, which in turn sparked a novel by Comp­ton Macken­zie, on which both this new ver­sion, and the original, are based. In 1941, when wartime Britain was strug­gling along un­der ra­tioning, and booze was in short sup­ply, a freighter car­ry­ing 28,000 cases of whiskey to Amer­ica struck some off­shore rocks and sank. But not, ac­cord­ing to Macken­zie’s tale, be­fore the de­ter­mined is­landers man­aged to res­cue at least some of its pre­cious cargo.

This new ver­sion has the heft and style of the old Eal­ing come­dies, with a strong cast, smart writ­ing, and nice un­der­play­ing. Ed­die Iz­zard is won­der­fully re­strained as Capt. Waggett, the zeal­ous Bri­tish Home Guard com­man­der who is try­ing to im­pose law and or­der on an is­land full of thirsty Scots, and Fenella Wool­gar (Doc­tor Who) is de­light­ful as his pool-shoot­ing, mildly sup­port­ive wife. Gre­gor Fisher (Love Ac­tu­ally) nar­rates the movie as Macroon, the is­land’s post­mas­ter, whose two lovely daugh­ters, Peggy and Ca­tri­ona (Naomi Bat­trick and El­lie Ken­drick, both splen­did), add ro­mance to this boozy an­them with their in­tend­eds, the mama’s boy school­teacher Ge­orge (Kevin Guthrie) and young Sgt. Oddd (the eu­pho­niously-named Sean Big­ger­staff). The late Tim Pig­gott-Smith (Charles III) has a cameo. There’s noth­ing very sur­pris­ing in the plot, as the pre­cious cargo is sal­vaged and stored, dis­cov­ered and hid­den again, with an all-hands-on­deck ef­fort by the parched denizens of the (fic­tional) Isle of Tod­day. The plea­sure is in the ex­e­cu­tion, and the throw­back feel of a kind of com­edy that we don’t see much any more. This shot of Whisky Ga­lore! has suf­fered the st­ing of dis­missal by a broad swath of crit­ics, which is too bad. It goes down smoothly, and leaves a pleas­ing glow.

The Tod­day show: Naomi Bat­trick (cen­ter)

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