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review

Mamoudou Athie, left, stars in Prentice Penny's Uncorked on Netflix.Nina Robinson/Courtesy of Netflix

  • Uncorked
  • Written and directed by Prentice Penny
  • Starring Mamoudou Athie, Niecy Nash and Courtney B. Vance
  • Classification N/A; 104 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars

A smooth family drama with hints of big, bold comedy and a spicy, complicated aftertaste reminiscent of Lifetime movie-of-the-week tropes, Uncorked is the cinematic equivalent of merlot: fine enough if you’ve drained all your other options, but nothing to get drunk on.

Writer-director Prentice Penny (Insecure, Happy Endings, Girlfriends) puts his sitcom writers-room experience to work here, pouring out a generous and mostly safe concoction that smacks of worn-in comfort, rather than the luxe refinement so longed for by his film’s leading man. (I’ll quit it with the wine jokes, I promise.) Mamoudou Athie’s Elijah is the son of a Memphis barbecue king (Courtney B. Vance) who, rather than follow in his father’s slow-cooked footsteps, dreams of life as a sommelier. That’s a fine enough and new direction when stacked against a traditional generational-divide drama, and Penny goes fairly deep into both the intricacies of Elijah’s chosen field and the father-son conflict at the heart of the film, even if you can guess exactly where it all ends up.

Along the way, Athie offers up a highly sympathetic performance as a man caught between two worlds, and Vance is typically compelling as a parent who just doesn’t understand. So long as Netflix doesn’t begin charging a corking fee, Penny’s film is a satisfying weeknight binge. (I lied about ending the wine puns.)

Uncorked is available to stream on Netflix starting March 27

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