Movie Reviews
2:28 pm
Fri August 15, 2008

Bottle Shock

Like Thunderbird . . .


"Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used." Shakespeare's Othello.

Like an expensive bottle of Burgundy that doesn't taste half as good as a $10 bottle of Riesling, Bottle Shock has much promise but loses much in the execution. Where Sideways did an above average job weaving wine tasting among the moods of its interesting travelers, Bottle Shock couldn't shock anyone with its clich?d romantic triangle, injected in the plot to spice up an inherently interesting story about the victory of California wine in a 1976 blind tasting contest in France. "Based on a true story" fulfills the worries of those who still like the real deal.

Bo Barrett (Chris Pine) is a naughty, long-haired slacker son of vineyard owner Jim Barrett (an overwrought Bill Pullman) but just kind-hearted enough to catch the eye of vineyard intern Sam (Rachael Taylor). Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriquez), a Mexican worker who has known the land and the business for his whole life, is also in the mix. But the real romance, so much more than this trite triangle, is the emergence of California wines as a world force to be reckoned with.

In that spirit, British Steve Spurrier (an appropriately snooty Alan Rickman) provides context and clash among the local vintners as he gathers up their samples for a first-time challenge to the French. Rickman lends just the right bite in this exchange: Jim Barrett: Why don't I like you?

Steven Spurrier: Because you think I'm an ass. And I'm not really. It's just that I'm British and you're not. If it were not for Rickman's droll presence, this film would have soured from the first frame except for the eye-popping NAPA cinematography of Mike Ozier.

When the film arrives with Bo in France, a bit of the old French farce magic seems to have come with him but not long enough to keep the film from sinking into mediocrity like Thunderbird at a wedding.