Bottle Shock Review
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In 2004’s award-winning wine-country dramedy, Sideways, writer/director Alexander Payne made California’s wineries significant characters in the story. But in Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock, the wineries are the story.

In 1976, vintners in California’s Napa Valley are struggling. Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) is struggling to hold on to his dream of running the Chateau Montelena winery—but the dream is starting to fade. And while he’s taking out another loan to try to survive, his son, Bo (Chris Pine), is more interested in using the finished product to get drunk and pick up chicks.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) has a few problems of his own. The wine shop owner and founder of the Academy of Wine can’t seem to attract anyone into his store—other than his American neighbor, Maurice (Dennis Farina), who only stops in to chat and drink free wine.

According to Maurice, what Spurrier needs to make his shop a success is publicity—not to mention variety. Maybe some of those American wines. So he convinces his friend to sponsor a blind taste test between the best French and California wines.

Spurrier travels to Napa Valley with the lowest of expectations—but what he finds there ends up changing the world’s view of wine forever.

Based on the true story of the 1976 “Judgement of Paris,” Bottle Shock is reminiscent of another kind of movie that often comes out in the fall—the kind that tells the true story of a football player or a basketball team. Movies like Gridiron Gang and Invincible tell the same underdog story—but that doesn’t mean that Bottle Shock isn’t an enjoyable movie anyway. Yes, the story’s been done before—albeit in a different way. But it’s a fun, simple, feel-good movie nonetheless—and I’m all for a fun, simple, feel-good movie.

At the same time, however, the story is so simple that Miller apparently felt the need to throw in a few additional subplots to fill the time. Rachael Taylor, who plays Sam, the hot intern (and the possible love interest of just about every guy in the movie), feels out of place, as does an additional subplot involving Chateau Monelena employee (and Bo’s friend), Gustavo (Freddy Rodríguez). Both characters seem to be somewhat extraneous. Other characters, however, are just right—like Farina’s tacky American expatriate, Maurice, who adds a few laughs without being overused. And Rickman is wonderful as the snooty Brit who makes it all happen.

So while it probably won’t rack up a long list of Oscar nods (like its wine-country predecessor), Bottle Shock is still a worthwhile adventure. Much like a glass of chilled Chardonnay, it’s mellow and even refreshing—and it’ll leave you with a warm, cozy glow.

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