Well-balanced and buttery, with flavors of “Sideways” and “Rocky,” and a nice finish.
“Bottle Shock,” a crowd-pleasing dramedy, starts out as a valentine to viticulture and viniculture but ends up as a story of American underdog triumph. Bring your red, white and blue spirit.
Director Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) uncorks this true story of the Napa Valley wine industry in the mid-1970s, a time when the words “American wine” and “Gallo” were considered synonymous and every wine snob knew that French winemakers were the only ones capable of making fine wines.
A shaggy-haired Chris Pine (“The Princess Diaries 2”) stars as Bo Barrett, an amiable college dropout who’s hanging around his dad’s winery working but also partying, picking up pretty girls and disappointing his father. “Woodstock was seven years ago,” his dad tells him.
Bill Pullman plays Jim Barrett, a former San Francisco lawyer who gave up a partnership in his firm to pursue his dream of producing wine in Napa. He’s so consumed with perfection that he’s gotten himself in hock up to his eyeballs.
Meanwhile, over in Paris, a British expat with a crush on French wines is desperate to drum up some attention for his failing wine store, the Academie du Vin. The always delicious Alan Rickman plays Steven Spurrier with comic panache, making him look just slightly ridiculous at whatever he does. When a fellow expat presses Spurrier to hold a contest between French and American wines, Spurrier agrees because he hopes the inevitable result will gain him respect among his French colleagues.
All of these characters, including the playful young Bo, have an absolute love affair with wine. The camera, likewise, is in love with the grape, lavishing almost as much attention on the rolling green fields and glasses of wine held up in the sunlight as it does on the pretty girl.
“Bottle Shock’s” biggest failing is that it’s predictable. At every turn, the surprise ahead isn’t really a surprise. Bo thinks the pretty intern at Chateau Montelena is someone he’d like more than a one-night stand with, but she rejects him. Gee, how will that turn out? A despairing Jim returns to his old law firm, where they agree to take him back, but not as a partner. The twist that happens next is no shock.
But viewers won’t really care. They’ll be too caught up in the excitement of this true tale of American triumph.
MOVIE REVIEW | 'Bottle Shock’
Cast: Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman
Behind the scenes: Directed by Randall Miller
Rating: PG-13 (brief strong profanity, some sexual content, a scene of drug use), 106 minutes