A Corker of a Film—Bottle Shock

(This probably isn’t coming to a theater near you, but just in case)

Bottle Shock

(PG-13; 110 min.) Helicopter shots of Napa, Glen Ellen and parts of Sonoma County are the highlights of this fictionalized comedy about the 1976 French blind tasting that established California wine as an international force. The feuding father-and-son team of Jim Barrett  (Bill Pullman) and his hippiesh son Bo (Chris Pine in a Kurt Cobain wig) punch the hell out of each other in a makeshift boxing ring. Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under is the best chum who is learning to become a winemaker on his own. Meanwhile, an intern from UC-Davis named Sam (Rachael Taylor) causes romantic confusion. To the film’s credit, there are some knowing references to the coming money storm that would all but drive the funk out of wine country—a montage in which a group of shade-tree vintners are startled to realize that someone would pay them for tastings. A huge improvement over Randall Miller’s last film, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, it still serves up a relentless snarl of cliches—it’s amazing that Miller spared himself and us the line “We will sell no wine before its time.” The restaging of a famous scene from It Happened One Night epitomizes the general shamelessness. (The scene is a further irritant if you remember how easy it was to hitchhike in Northern California in the mid-1970s.)  Alan Rickman, as the British wine merchant who starts the kerfluffle, does a great deal with his air of sarcastic melancholy, and he gives this film a boost whenever he appears. 

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