For obvious reasons, a lot of people will be using wine metaphors to describe “Bottle Shock,” but instead of talking about tangerine undertones or a hint of oak, let's just say this movie is more like a Merlot you get for $6.99 at Trader Joe's than some $90 snob special in a French restaurant.
You can get it down and it offers a bit of a buzz, but it's nobody's idea of great. It's passable, while hinting at better things.
“Bottle Shock” tells the true story of a blind taste test in 1976 that matched California wines against supposedly far superior French wines with unexpected results.
That test, though, only comes at the end of the film. Leading up to it, we have a too broad expanse of characters and situations, starting with Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a British wine merchant in Paris who decides to stage the event to boost his business profile.
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He flies to California and meets struggling vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his hippie son Bo (Chris Pine), as well as upstart winemaker Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez) and a bevy of others who would like their wines to gain notice.
While Spurrier gathers the best contenders, the film gets filled out with economic struggles, a love triangle (Rachael Taylor plays Barrett's too-cute intern), some boxing, a bit of racial oppression and even some open-heart surgery. Maybe this stuff's true, but director Randall Miller, who co-wrote the film with a gaggle of others, didn't need to include it all.
Rickman, as always, is wonderful. Pine sports the worst haircut ever and seems to be channeling Brad Pitt's stoner character from “True Romance.” Pullman does what he can. Eliza Dushku pops in now and then as the spicy-slutty-wise bar owner.
Wine enthusiasts no doubt mark this event as one that changed the nature of their beast, opening the doors for vintners around the world. And hurrah for that.
Movie enthusiasts, though, may find themselves wishing they had a bottle of something appropriate to help wash it all down.