Friday, February 06, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Bottle Shock (2008)

BOTTLE SHOCK is the enjoyable story of the rise of California wines to international acclaim and acceptance.

The fact-based film, set in 1976, concerns Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a Brit with a failing French wine shop. Spurrier dreams up a blind wine-tasting competition between French and Napa wines as a publicity tool, assuming that the French wines will win, but the "Judgement of Paris" yields shocking results.

Bill Pullman and Chris Pine play a struggling California winemaker and his immature but good-hearted son. Their employees are played by Rachael Taylor and Freddy Rodriguez.

This is a well-done "feel good" movie which incorporates interesting slices of history and science into the story. A few lines of dialogue are overly cliched or sentimental, but there are also some marvelous bits, with the best dialogue delivered by Alan Rickman. Rickman is a master actor who never lets his audience down, and this film is no exception.

The supporting cast includes Dennis Farina (CRIME STORY), Joe Regalbuto (MURPHY BROWN), and Eliza Dushku (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER). Bradley Whitford (THE WEST WING) makes the most of his one scene as a UC Davis professor, who provides a key turning point in the film; I would have enjoyed it if he'd had more screen time.

I believe some of the reviews -- such as Roger Ebert's 3-1/2 star rating -- overstate the case for the film, perhaps because there is a dearth of positive, well-made movies with interesting stories in today's film market. That said, in the words of the Washington Post, "The movie, though not itself great, offers a lot of fun for those of us who like our wine cold, our Rickman tart, our pickups rusted out and our French people deeply unhappy."

Cast trivia: Chris Pine is the son of actor Robert Pine, whose best-known role might be Sgt. Getraer on CHiPS in the late '70s and early '80s. I remember seeing the senior Pine at the celebrity breakfast at Garden Grove's Strawberry Festival in the late '70s.

BOTTLE SHOCK was directed by Randall Miller. It runs 110 minutes.

The story is also told in the book THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS by George M. Taber, the Time magazine writer who was the only journalist who attended the actual wine tasting.

Parental advisory: this movie is rated PG-13 for language and very brief glimpses of lovemaking and '70s drug use. In a comic scene, partial nudity is implied but not shown.

BOTTLE SHOCK was released this week on widescreen DVD. Extras include a commentary track, the trailer, and featurettes.


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