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Bar mitzvah film no gift

August 06, 2008|Michael Ordona

In "Sixty Six," an attention-starved, sad-sack boy in 1966 Britain wants to have the biggest bar mitzvah ever. However, his family's business fails and England's chance to finally win the World Cup falls on his big day. So he sulks when he can't have his Super Sweet 13 bash and roots against the national team.

Oy vey.

Director Paul Weiland, on whose childhood experiences the film is based, may be too close to the subject matter. The things that intrigued him as a youth are sprinkled throughout, but that fascination is not transferred to the audience. Even the rabid love of soccer seems to be taken for granted by the filmmakers rather than shared with the viewer. Because characters are played strictly as types, with no arcs to experience, the audience is presumed to care when selfish, foolish decisions are made.

That the performances are uniformly one-noted certainly doesn't speak well of the direction. Only Helena Bonham Carter, as the mother, achieves human warmth, while Peter Serafinowicz, as the outgoing uncle, manages to charm. "Sixty Six" may find a niche audience, but instead of depicting a boy's first steps toward manhood -- ceremony aside -- it turns into an uninvolving portrait of self-absorption.

-- Michael Ordona

"Sixty Six." MPAA rating: PG-13 for language, some sexual content and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At Laemmle's Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 477-5581; Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811.

-- A nonvintage 'Bottle Shock'

Remember how silly it was that "Searching for Bobby Fischer" tried to make chess exciting by ratcheting up the sound effects as the players slammed their pieces down? Well, perhaps "Bottle Shock" could have used something as absurd to make wine tasting seem interesting.

Set primarily in the Napa Valley of the 1970s, "Bottle Shock" tries to involve the viewer in the Miracle on Ice of the wine world, in which upstart California vintages faced off against dominant French varieties in a blind taste test. Guess which ones triumphed?

But this is no "Sideways." It's not even a "French Kiss." The subtleties of the craft, the exquisite whispers of the vine, are splashed in the audience's face by hyperactive direction and a clunky script. Despite a cast boasting Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, director and co-writer Randall Miller can't seem to leave a moment alone long enough for the viewer to appreciate its bouquet.

The characters, purportedly based on real people, are stiffly drawn and often just plain unlikable. Relationship threads start but go nowhere.

The soul of the grape, that thing that elevates a wine to greatness, proves here as elusive on screen as in the bottle.

-- Michael Ordona

"Bottle Shock." MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and a scene of drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. In selected theaters.

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