Like a bottle of fine wine, Bottle Shock opens with tantalizing promise. The sweeping views of vineyards in Napa Valley forecast a warm and charming account of the true story of the breakthrough of California wines in the 1970's. Like a box of cheap wine, however, Bottle Shock unfortunately becomes a regret before you're halfway through it. If Sideways was the perfect Pinot Noir, Bottle Shock is Miles' dreaded Merlot.
Director/Co-Writer Randall Miller lets all of the interesting potential of his source material ferment into ridiculous subplots about dull romance and daddy issues, so instead of an intelligent, inspiring, and engrossing look at how British oenophile Steven Spurrier discovered Chateau Montelena in California's Napa Valley, Bottle Shock exists as a bloated, jocular farce that features a two-minute wet t-shirt contest with poor Rachael Taylor (Transformers) as its only contestant. It's one of several moments that make you remember, "Oh, yeah - Randall Miller also directed Houseguest and The Sixth Man."
Maybe I could overlook the stale writing if it wasn't the great Alan Rickman (Sweeney Todd) who was being fed such terrible lines. Actually I take that back - I couldn't overlook it no matter what, and the acting by Bill Pullman (who along with literally half the cast was just in Miller's Nobel Son) and Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in Star Trek next year) as father and son is just plain flat. That both Rickman and Dennis Farina (The Grand) are sidelined so we can watch teens behaving badly is probably the most unforgivable offense of Bottle Schlock (excuse me, Shock), along with, of course, the short shrift given to the story of the wine itself.
Though I've been to Napa Valley a couple of times and toured wineries, and I saw the oddly ignored Mondovino a few years ago, I'm nothing close to an expert on wine. About all I know by this point is that I prefer white over red and that Champagne is a place. But I don't buy wine and I rarely drink it; something about the stereotypical culture of it has prevented me from fully embracing it.
It's pretty ironic, then, that I'd much rather spend a day at the vineyard with the snobbiest of oenophiles than hang out with any of the characters of Bottle Shock for an afternoon.