Review: Trip to 'Wine Country' goes sour
Former 'SNL' cast members head to Northern California for a romp that never quite materializes
Take a group of funny ladies and just add wine.
That's how easy it should be for "Wine Country," which sends a group of "SNL" alums — Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch and former staff writers Paula Pell and Emily Spivey — to Napa Valley for weekend of fun and vino.
But "Wine Country" never finds its sweet spot. You go in hoping for a boozy "Bridesmaids," you end up with a bad hangover.
Poehler, who also directs, stars as Abby, who organizes a 50th birthday getaway for Rebecca (Dratch) and her pals, who became friends decades earlier while working at a Chicago pizza place.
Now Naomi (Rudolph), Catherine (Gasteyer), Val (Pell) and Jenny (Spivey) are leaving their respective lives behind for a much-needed vacation where they can check their baggage and soak in each other's company.
If only it were so easy.
Abby has everyone on a tightly scheduled itinerary, which she organized after getting laid off from her job. Naomi is dodging calls from her doctor, worried a cancer diagnosis is looming.
Catherine is addicted to her job, and spends her time trying to find a decent Wi-Fi signal so she can conduct business emails. And Rebecca doesn't want anyone to make a fuss about her birthday, even though no one really is.
The story's structure is fine, if contrived, and should lay the groundwork for an all-out romp. But "Wine Country" never quite ripens, and the chemistry between the cast-members — which should be come natural — never takes over in the way you'd expect, or at least hope.
You can feel them trying, during an old-school dance party sequence or in bits when they recreate moments from their time spent "in the pizza trenches." But that's part of the problem: it shouldn't feel forced, and the real life friendships between the cast members fail to spill over into their characters, save for one hot tub interaction where Rudolph and Spivey's characters mourn the loss of Prince.
Tina Fey shows up as the owner of the home the women rent, and Jason Schwartzman plays Devon, a cook-slash-driver who hangs around the rental property and whose presence is never justified. (When have you ever rented a place that includes a strange man who cooks paella?)
But "Wine Country" needs less, not more. A night spent watching Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch and company drink wine and hang out would surely lead to more laughs than are contained in this formulaic, overly regimented comedy exercise. Just add wine, take away the rest. Then this journey to "Wine Country" would be worth the trip.
Rated R: for crude sexual content, language and some drug material
Running time: 103 minutes