Comedy in the Movies

COMEDY IN THE MOVIES

If you ever speak to someone from outside of Scotland, they will generally comment on how as a nation we are always so friendly. They will then say that they love our sense of humour. But that will generally be followed by “But I couldn’t understand half of what you say!” So, this the last of our series looks at Comedy in the Movies.

All five of the movies that I have chosen were filmed entirely in Scotland. Four of them display how humour and poking fun at ourselves is inherently written into our DNA. If you’re not from Scotland but love our quirks, customs and traditions, then chances are you are descended from a Scot somewhere along the way.

I think that this is why Comedy in the Movies of a typically Scottish flavour goes down so well, just like a smooth single malt whisky. You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy it.

In each of the movies below you will recognise some of the actors and others you won’t. The Angel’s Share for example, and my personal favourite, uses all relatively unknown actors. The dark humour shines through and has you rooting for the underdog.

Whereas ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ has a fantastic ensemble cast who provide the humour, while Billy Connolly who is regarded as one of the best comedians to come out of Britain takes a more understated ‘back seat’ role.

The only one that is not based on Scottish humour is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I have included this because it was filmed entirely on location in Scotland. It has remarkably stood the test of time. It never ceases to amaze me when I take one of my American groups to Doune Castle where much of it was filmed and someone in the group is able quote word for word, lines from the movie!

So I hope that you enjoy my selection for Comedy in the Movies.

THE ANGEL’S SHARE

This has to be my favourite Scottish comedy-drama. My wife and I went to watch this at the cinema when it was first released back in 2012 and the cinema was packed. You know that you are watching a great film when the whole audience spontaneously laugh at some truly comedic scenes. 

The lead character is Robbie who is serving 300 hours community payback service to avoid going to prison. The supervisor takes Robbie under his wing because he sees potential in him. During this time Robbie becomes a father so Harry invites Robbie back to his place to toast the birth with a vintage Scotch. It transpires that Robbie has a “good nose.” This means he can differentiate a great Highland whisky from an even better Speyside and learns about the “Angel’s Share.”

The movie follows Robbie and his little group of followers’ attempts to acquire three bottles of a single malt that are going to be auctioned. This is a belter of a movie ably directed by Ken Loach and takes in some great locations in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Naturally, a movie about whisky takes in the Highlands and a couple of great distilleries. Watch it – you won’t be disappointed. If you struggle with the accent, it might be an idea to switch on the subtitles!

WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY

Here is another movie that I didn’t hold high expectations for. However, the story combined with the cast and the beautiful scenery of the Highlands made for a fun movie. It is a story of family dynamics and relationships amongst the three generations.

Bill Connolly, diagnosed with terminal cancer, plays the cantankerous 75 year-old patriarchal grandfather. David Tennant and his estranged wife Rosamind Pike come together with their three kids for the long journey from London to the Highlands for his father’s last birthday. Then we have the added complexity of Tennant’s wealthy millionaire brother whom he resents organising the birthday celebrations. 

If you have never seen a “Viking” funeral, this is your opportunity to see one. But this might be a Viking funeral that even a Viking might chuckle at. This is an otherwise feel-good movie that will leave you with a smile on your face.

THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON

For me this is a film which on the face of it I didn’t expect much but it exceeded my expectations. It has a great cast including Robert Carlyle (Full Monty) who also directs, Emma Thompson and Ray Winstone. 

It is set in Bridgeton, a district just to the east of Glasgow city centre. The film follows a period in the life of 50 year-old Barney Thomson who leads a mundane existence as a barber. This all changes when his manager gives him the bad news that he has to let him go because he basically “disnae have any patter wi the customers.” Barney begs for his job but accidentally stabs his boss in the chest with a pair of scissors. And so begins a sequence of events that embroil his mother Cemolina played by Emma Thompson.

She helps to cover up his mishap by chopping up the manager’s body and putting inside her freezer. Coincidentally, there is a manhunt in progress because a serial killer is on the loose. Barney finds out by accident that his mother is the serial killer. 

If you like your comedy dark, you’ll enjoy this. The pace of the movie flags in a couple of places but they are outweighed by the great comedy dialogue between Barney and his mother and Barney and the police.  

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

It has never ceased to amaze me just how many of my American tour groups are big fans of Monty Python. This movie released in 1975 was a comedy loosely based on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. 

So, if you like your comedy movies that take the word “bonkers” to a new level then this is the one for you. Be ready for God to be portrayed as W.G.Grace, Knights who say “Ni,” a Trojan Rabbit, Knights with no horses but a set of coconuts. If none of that makes sense, then watch the film and hopefully it will. 

Almost the whole of the movie was filmed in Scotland. Having been promised that they could use a cross section of castle throughout Scotland, they were let down at the eleventh hour and were only permitted the use of Doune Castle and Castle Stalker. Through some very ingenious filming most of the castles that appeared in the movie were filmed at Doune. 

Both before and after the filming of this movie, Doune Castle has been extensively used for film and TV productions. The most notable production to date has been Outlander which has seen the footfall to Doune increase by over 100%. If this is somewhere you MUST visit why not take our Outlander Tour to experience ‘Castle Leoch.’

The premise for the movie was given a second life when it was adapted for the Broadway stage in 2005 to become the critically acclaimed Spamalot.  

RESTLESS NATIVES

This low budget adventure comedy released in 1985 performed well at the box office in Scotland but didn’t achieve the same level of success overseas. A lack of a big budget shows through but I think ultimately gives the movie it’s charm.

The story follows two youths from the working class area of Wester Hailes on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Disaffected by their grey and mundane lives, they follow the British Government advice to the millions of unemployed to “get on their bikes.” They acquire a Suzuki GP 125 motorbike, don masks and head out onto the tourist trails of the Highlands holding up tour buses. Instead of keeping the money, they become modern day Robin Hoods releasing it to the public as they race around the streets on their bike. 

There are plenty to feast the eyes on with locations in and around Edinburgh all the way up into the Highlands. For those that like 80s music, the movie soundtrack is provided by Scotland’s own home-grown Big Country.