Published Jul 31, 2008Its pretty easy to imagine that Bottle Shock got the green light after Sideways made the idea of a vineyard dramedy critically and commercially viable. Trouble is, Sideways was about a lot more than wine, and Bottle Shock has little else of substance to offer.
Writer/director Randall Miller clearly has great passion for grapes and the vines that yield them, lovingly guiding the camera through a swooping overhead shot of a vineyard to introduce the movie. Once the wine is flowing, he spares no opportunity to frame a sexy gleam in Frances favourite fermented juice.
If only the script demonstrated such reverence for character development. Most of the characters written are overly stereotypical and their predictable dramatic paths lack reasonable motivation. Luckily, Miller was able to assemble a cast talented enough to breathe life into wood.
Wine connoisseur Steven Spurrier, played by Alan Rickman, instigates the events, based on the true story of Californian wines introduction to the international stage. Spurrier, the proprietor of a modest wine shop, is prodded by his freeloading customer Maurice to expand his selection to more worldly wines to get a leg up on the competition.
The idea for an international taste-off emerges and Spurrier scurries off to the Napa Valley to pompously sample the juice the hippies are brewing. Enter future Captain Kirk, Chris Pine as Bo Barrett. I guess its a good sign he seems at ease playing a cocky, brash, young womaniser. An aimless hippie working on his dads vineyard in 1976, Bo mediates between Spurrier and the other Nappa winemakers, including his rageoholic father (Bill Pullman) and natural born wine-whisperer Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez).
Of course, a hot intern oenophile shows up to facilitate an unnecessary love triangle (Rachael Taylor) and Eliza Dushku is underused as a cold but kind bar owner. Bottle Shock plays more to charm a few smiles out of the audience than to inspire much serious thought or laughter, but sometimes a modest achievement is all thats necessary. (Alliance)