Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)
Written by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) and Jody Savin (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)
It’s always inspiring when a studio picks up a film based on a little-known event that happened years ago. It’s less encouraging, however, when that story is adapted into a human-interest narrative that you would find buried in the back of the food section in any local community newspaper.
That’s how little regard “Bottle Shock” seems to have for it true-life and triumphant tale of Chardonnay. Directed and co-written by Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”), the story featured is “The Judgment of Paris,” a blind wine tasting competition held in Paris in 1976 where a panel of French judges surprisingly chose the vintage wines of California’s Napa Valley over those of their home country. The contest is said to have put California on the map as a respected wine producer since the French were always regarded as the best winemakers in the world.
Alan Rickman (“Love Actually”) plays Steven Spurrier, an English wine aficionado living in Paris who travels to California to find the best wines to compete against the French favorites. One of the wineries he visits is owned by Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), who has no interest in finding out if his wines can beat the best the French have to offer. His son Bo (Chris Pine), however, believes in the family business although he’d much rather be corkscrewing the summer intern (Rachel Taylor) than butting heads with his old man about issues of the past. Freddy Rodriguez (“Bobby”) rounds out the cast as Gustavo Brambila, a winery worker with an impressive palate, who’s passionate about making his own sweet nectar.
In terms of films about wine, “Bottle Shock” is not even close to being on the same menu as something like 2004’s Academy Award-nominated film “Sideways.” While an exciting history lesson about “The Judgment of Paris” would have been highly desired, what’s sadly missing from “Shock” is a developed set of characters and relationships we can become emotionally invested in. Instead, meaningless drama in the chateau knocks the film’s pacing off track and some rather dull moments in Napa ruin the overall beauty of the countryside.