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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 40%
Total Crap: 6.67%

4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Bottle Shock
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by William Goss

"Grape Jam"
3 stars

Personally speaking, the inspirational/unbelievable/incredible true story fills me with a certain kind of dread, because more often than not, they revolve around sports (in which I have precious little interest), and more often than not, they offer little reason to exist except to remind you that, at some point in time, at some place on this earth, a underdog won against impossible odds and changed the face of _________ as we know it and isn’t that just dramatic enough to spin into a feature (in which I find precious little surprise).

Bottle Shock falls right in with that criteria, except swap out ‘the championship game’ with ‘the Judgment of Paris’, a 1976 blind tasting set up in Paris by English wine expert Steven Spurrier to see how French’s finest stacked up against the likes of those Napa Valley newcomers. Yes, apparently, it was a tasting so singularly influential on the win industry that it merited a movie around it, and while I can understandably conceive of one being formed around the uneasy, unexpected relationship between the disenfranchised Spurrier (Alan Rickman, whose dry sarcasm remains most welcome) and a down-on-his-luck California vintner (Bill Pullman), director/co-writer Randall Miller and his fellow scribes clearly feel otherwise, clumsily working in possibly-true-but-who-cares developments in the form of said vintner’s deadbeat son (Chris Pine), attractive intern (Rachael Taylor), and loyal employee (Freddy Rodriguez); it’s the last of these three that manages not only to sleep with one in spite of the other, but also go behind his boss’ back to make the Best Wine Ever. Thankfully, we now have some outcomes that are as easy to expect – if not more so – than that of whether or not the California wines will have what it takes on the European stage. Shock? No. It doesn't count as ‘surprise’ or ‘suspense’ either.

When it comes strictly to the competition and the challenges leading up to it, Miller and friends have something inherently compelling, and not just to wine snobs alone. It also doesn’t hurt that Rickman and Pullman share an odd sort of rapport as men compelled by pride to bring out the best in one another, no matter how unlikely that seems. However, amidst the gorgeous shots of the vineyards from above and the typical shots of nostalgia from the nearest radio, in comes conflict between friends and family to keep the Judgment of Paris in perspective, to keep it from being too important, I suppose. As a predictable “let’s go, U.S.A.!” drama, it’s amusing and grounded enough to go down smooth, but as a phony ensemble melodrama, it only becomes harder to swallow.

'Sideways' may have been very much a different wine-related story, but it focuses on two middle-aged men coping with equally dashed hopes, a thread that 'Bottle Shock' should have seen fit to emulate in the end. For now, though, it stands instead as a pleasantly pre-packaged bit of nostalgia for both the event and the era, pleased to best serve the palates of those who went ahead and snuck their own cheese into the theater.

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originally posted: 08/15/08 21:52:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/22/10 Maya This is a wonderful film! 5 stars
2/22/10 Cat The film was good when Alan Rickman was in it. Needs less cliche more history. 3 stars
5/19/09 neeon Unbelievably bad. One dimensional, comic book characters. 1 stars
9/04/08 Sully Made-for-TV-after-school-movie. The wine bottles had bar codes!not until the '80's, lame... 3 stars
1/21/08 anya great film! 5 stars
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  DVD: 03-Feb-2009


  DVD: 03-Feb-2009

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