“Wine Country” is a poorly executed “Bad Moms.” It’s outright cringe-inducing from start to finish, save for a merciful flash of comedy every 20 minutes or so. Not even a bottle of cab can dull the pain. Two might be a start. (Just kidding, don’t do that.)
Watching the film is like being on the outside of an inside joke for 90-plus minutes—and not a good one, but the kind where everyone involved is in self-satisfied stitches while everyone else is just annoyed. With a cast that includes hilarious, close-knit “Saturday Night Live” alumni like Amy Poehler (who also produced and directed), Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer, expectations for “Wine Country” were reasonably high. They are not met.
The writing is terrible. I don’t know how else to put it. The jokes are not funny. There’s a genuinely good bit involving Fran Drescher somewhere in the middle of the film, Jason Schwartzman has his moments, and Tina Fey’s character is amusing, but for the most part, “Wine Country” doesn’t kick up many laughs, and not for lack of trying. (The recurring “Things we say now” joke is painful.) Imagine a movie made only from the bad parts of “Bridesmaids” and “Sisters,” and you pretty much have “Wine Country.”
It’s hard to say what went wrong. Paula Pell and Emily Spivey join Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch, and Gasteyer in the core cast. Spivey co-wrote the script with Liz Cackowski—both former “SNL” writers—based on a real trip the group made in celebration of Dratch’s 50th birthday. “Our characters are very close to who we are with some artistic license heightening it,” Pell told Vulture.
Maybe that’s the problem. Pell points to a scene where her character gifts the others with sex toys as one element of the actual trip that was replicated in the film. You can see how it might have been funny in person, but the humor doesn’t translate onto the screen at all. It’s like they created a movie that was funny to themselves, assuming it would be funny to everyone else (a mistake I often made on high school video projects).
Reviews for “Wine Country” have been lukewarm, which is somewhat baffling. Critics enjoyed it much more than audiences did, according to Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie’s 67 percent Tomatometer rating is much higher than its 32 percent audience score.
Maybe it was the girl-power element. Maybe some people found the emotional dynamics relatable. But as much as I love Poehler and Co., I wouldn’t have gotten more than 15 minutes into “Wine Country” if it weren’t my job. I advise skipping it altogether and watching “Dead to Me” instead.