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dir Gillies MacKinnon
scr Peter McDougall
prd Iain Maclean, Alan J Wands
with Gregor Fisher, Eddie Izzard, Ellie Kendrick, Naomi Battrick, Sean Biggerstaff, Kevin Guthrie, James Cosmo, Fenella Woolgar, Tim Pigott-Smith, Michael Nardone, Kevin Mains, Annie Louise Ross
release UK 5.May.17, US 12.May.17
Hide the hooch: Battrick and Kendrick
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
In remaking the 1949 Alexander Mackendrick classic, loosely based on a true story, Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon tries to recapture the tone of the Ealing comedy. But nearly 70 years later, that style of twee farce feels very dull. While the story is amusing, the story has no proper tension, so it just rolls along making the audience wonder why they bothered.
As World War II rages in Europe, residents of Todday, an island off the west coast of Scotland, are horrified when their rationed whisky supply runs dry. With nothing but tea to drink, everyone's grumpy. Widowed postmaster Macroon (Fisher) is distracted by his daughters' romantic enganglements: Catriona (Kendrick) and nervous school teacher George (Guthrie), and Peggy (Battrick) with just-returned soldier Odd (Biggerstaff). Then a ship runs aground carrying a huge cargo of whisky, which the villagers quickly salvage and try to hide from local military officer Wagget (Izzard).
What follows is a nutty string of near misses as the increasingly drunken locals outwit Wagget, the only person on the island not in on the scam. Even the church minister (Cosmo) is involved, although he makes sure the hijinks pause for sabbath. There's also an underserved political subplot involving a box of government documents rescued from the ship. And of course there's the rather relaxed and uneventful progress of both squeaky clean romances. But despite Patrick Doyle's insistent score, nothing is terribly funny.
The cast is a likeable mix of old and new faces, and most play their roles with their tongues in their cheeks. As the four young lovers, Kendrick, Battrick, Guthrie and Biggerstaff are especially cute, even if there isn't a whiff of chemistry between them. At least we can enjoy the smiley, obstacle-free journey they take. By contrast, Izzard has the thankless ham role as the rule-bound nitpicker who maniacally torments everyone for no real reason, winding only himself up in the process.
The film looks terrific, shot in beautiful locations with a nice sense of colour and life. So it might have worked if there had been a sense of momentum to any of the plot strands, some suspense in the caper or even a hint of an edge to the film. There are some nicely emotional scenes, which are never allowed to blossom into anything meaningful. And MacKinnon and writer McDougall never seem remotely interested in finding any present day resonance, instead settling for a good-natured rehash.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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