It might say "based on a true story" on the poster but Whisky Galore! is really based on the classic 1949 Ealing comedy.

That was about a bunch of Scottish islanders, suffering the deprivations of World War II and starved of their favourite tipple, salvaging a shipload of whisky from a fortuitous shipwreck then hiding it from the authorities.

Yes, there was a true story behind it all. The original black-and-white movie came out while British wartime rationing was still in force. The reason for this technicolour, but strangely colourless, new spin isn't quite so clear.

Of course, whisky and whisky tourism is a big thing for Scotland. But there are better whisky appreciation movies than this rather twee period piece, especially Ken Loach's fine Angel's Share from 2011.


This repeats the usual things about whisky being "the water of life". But it's hardly much of an advert for it or its role in Scottish culture.

Director Gillies Mackinnon has made at least one terrific nostalgic Scottish film in 1996's, Small Faces a tale of teenagers in the Glasgow gangland of the late 1960s.

Given its source material, Whisky Galore! was always going to be made of far gentler stuff.

But it's so very whimsical it can feel like it's a movie about a porridge shortage rather than a community with an attachment to the hard stuff.

There's not much memorable going on character-wise. Though it offers Eddie Izzard channelling Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring in his role as Wagget, an English army officer assigned to keep an eye on the fictional island of Todday.

When a freighter hits a local rock, it's his job to secure the cargo which, as well as Scotch bound for New York, includes some sensitive official papers with royal connections which are part of a subplot which goes nowhere. Slowly.

Though it says it is based on a true story, Whisky Galore! takes inspiration from classic comedies. Photo/Supplied
Though it says it is based on a true story, Whisky Galore! takes inspiration from classic comedies. Photo/Supplied

The locals, though, have other ideas about what to do with their windfall: Hide it, drink it, and generally have a very good time right under the nose of officialdom.

But have to say: So many Scotsmen. So much whisky. So few fights ... these were clearly very different times.

While it's a movie not lacking in nationality, it sure doesn't have much personality. No, it doesn't capture the, och aye, spirit of the original.

Nor does it answer a question hanging over both movies: Why didn't these Scotch-deprived Outer Hebrideans distil their own rather than wait for their boat to come in?

A bottle of the 1949 would be worth a mint by now.

Cast: Sean Biggerstaff, James Cosmo, Eddie Izzard
Director: Gillies MacKinnon
Rating: M (offensive language)
Running time: 98 mins
Verdict: Quaint rebottling of Scotch comedy