The absurdly elaborate plot involving the kidnapping of the laureate's son is driven by filmmaker Randall Miller's attempt at an assaultive style. The younger players, including Bryan Greenberg, Ö (as Barkley,Ö the son), Shawn Hatosy Ö and the vampy Eliza DushkuÖ , are up to it. But Miller, an indie filmmaker whose wine-loving Bottle Shock was one of the sleepers of the summer, trips himself up co-writing and directing this watchable misstep.
A thumb has been hacked off in a grisly opening scene. The kidnapped kid had one night of passion with a scary-sexy slam poet (Dushku) before being beaten up and spirited off. Did he stage it himself to grab Dad's $2 million in prize money? The cops (Pullman and Ernie Hudson) seem so lost that Mom has to turn to her own forensic and deduction skills to find answers and unravel the mystery.
Miller used much of the same cast for Bottle Shock, and while he struggles with many more plot threads here, the new film is utterly lacking the charm of the wine country movie. Montages set to loud electronic house music show us how this caper could come off -- it involves disguises, scheming and easy-to-take-apart-and-rebuild Mini Coopers. However, the more montages Miller cuts in, the more details he adds, the sillier the scheme seems.
Rickman wins laughs in every scene, but the laughs outside of his orbit are few and far between. Explicit sex and gore ruin the tone, and the conclusion is so ridiculously pat and far-fetched that it torches much of the good will the film has heading into the home stretch. Good actors such as Rickman, Pullman and Dushku (all also in Bottle Shock) should have their pick of good scripts, as should Steenburgen, Ted Danson (as an academic colleague) and DeVito.
Their names helped get this project financed and into theaters. But perhaps some of the money spent on Mini Coopers could have been diverted to a script doctor. Lacking the polish and coherence worthy of its cast, Nobel Son is no prize winner.