Bottle Shock (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Bottle Shock</strong> (2008)

(On DVD, October 2009) There may not be anything complicated or new about Bottle Shock, but it’s hard to dislike a gentle comedy that meets most of its objectives and ends on an entirely pleasant note. The heavily dramatized story of a wine tasting that “shook the world” in recognizing that American wines could compete with French ones, Bottle Shock is perhaps most pleasant when it delves a little bit into the minutiae and passion of oenophiles, whether on the wine-making or wine-tasting side. I’m not a drinker, but I always appreciate representations of people who love their work and hobbies –and Bottle Shock treats both with a lot of respect. Otherwise, the film features an impressive number of B-list names: Alan Rickman is a hoot as an Englishmen twice-removed, while Chris Pine turns in a performance that makes his take on Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek seem inevitable. It helps that the surroundings are as charming as the characters or the comedic arc: The film opens on a number of terrific flyover shots of the Napa Valley that would seem computer-generated if they weren’t in a low-budget feature. Not all films have to push the envelope if they happen to strike viewers at the right angle, and Bottle Rocket handles a conventional narrative with a bit of competence. The few notes that sounds repeatedly false are the film’s nationalistic insistence (along with a bit of French-bashing) and an odd scene near the end where characters have an uncanny ability to peer into the future of a world where oenophiles can enjoys wines from all over the world. (This isn’t that kind of meta-comedy, so let’s leave the fourth wall intact, shall we?) There’s also a bizarre romantic interlude that’s good for a bit of jealousy and… not much else. (Although there’s a payoff of sorts in the deleted scenes.) As an underdog comedy promoting hard work and determination over inherited privilege, it’s about as predictable as you may think… but that’s a limited criticism when it’s not the kind of film meant to be dissected. Just watch the thing, don’t expect much and enjoy. The DVD features an audio commentary track that is as enjoyable as the film itself, plus a bland documentary on the making of the film and a promotional piece on Chateau Montelena that acts as an epilogue to the film.

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