Anchor Bay // 2011 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // January 2nd, 2012
All's fair in love and wine.
Wendy (Marla Sokoloff, The Practice) just can't seem to gain control of her life. She can't find a good job or stay in a relationship; life seems to throw chaos her way at every opportunity. When her estranged father leaves her a Napa Valley winery in his will, she has a choice to make: keep the winery (even though she knows nothing about making wine) or sell it (even though its worth is offset by its massive debt).
Aiding -- or hindering -- her decision are best friend Jennifer (Amanda Righetti, Role Models), who doesn't want to leave her job in order to help; local winery owner Nathan (a subdued Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future), who will do anything to get his hands on Jennifer's winery; and mysterious love interest Chris (Barry Watson, Samantha Who?), a local guy who seems to know a lot about winemaking.
There's nothing especially fantastic about The Chateau Meroux. If it were to be summed up in one word, it would be "good."
Neither Sokoloff nor Watson have a ton of charisma, but they do share a mild amount of chemistry, so their romance feels reasonably true. Amanda Righetti has the most screen time, but Jennifer's storyline fizzles to secondary status by the time the film is done, leaving her little opportunity to bolster the show's energy.
There's nothing original about the plot. In fact, it has a vague "after school special" quality. Wendy debates whether to take over the winery or not, but of course she does. Nathan does everything in his power, including sabotage, to drive her out. There is the moment when everything seems lost, and a grand plan to fix everything. And, of course, there's a last-ditch attempt to foil the new plan, which is stymied just in time. The Chateau Meroux had a chance to add a moment of real surprise by keeping the fact that Barry is Nathan's son a secret from Wendy, but since it wasn't kept from the audience as well, that chance is squandered. At least there aren't any gaping logic holes, aside from how they were able to afford the large amount of Syrah needed for their secret blend.
The Chateau Meroux's production values are...well, a little less than good. Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the picture is free of defects and the color palette is reasonably deep and balanced, but little effort was put into capturing the natural beauty of the vineyard. The film seems more interested in staging the mansion than the surrounding lands. The 5.1 Dolby audio is not all that immersive; the surrounds are used only sparingly and there is virtually no subwoofer response. There are no bonus features.
The Chateau Meroux won't inspire any deep emotional response from anyone, nor will anyone remember much about it the next day, but it is sweet and earnest and makes for a satisfying diversion.
Not great, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13