Even though he's only made four movies, Wes Anderson is one of the most talented, interesting, and quirky directors in the business. He's still young, but with only four films under his belt he's already become a synonym for a very distinct type of filmmaking, e.g. "That movie was kind of Wes Andersonish." Having seen the final three films of the Anderson canon (RUSHMORE, THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS, and THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU), I finally had the opportunity to see Anderson's debut feature, BOTTLE ROCKET. The movie begins rather slowly, but by the end I was laughing my head off and decided BOTTLE ROCKET was my second favorite film next to THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU.
The movie was released early in 1996 and though not as technically strong as Anderson's later pictures, it illustrates the genius of filmmaking that he is. In addition to being Anderson's major directorial debut, the movie is also known as the film that catapulted the Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, into superstardom. Luke Wilson portrays Anthony Adams, a young man who is struggling with his identity and purpose in life. After taking time to recuperate at a voluntary mental hospital, Anthony returns home and meets up with his childhood friend, Dignan (Owen Wilson). Anthony is looking forward to settling down and getting on with life while Dignan has bigger plans for both of them. Dignan wants Anthony to enjoy life, too, but through a totally different means than he imagines: a life of pleasure gained from committing crime. At first, Anthony isn't willing to join Dignan's wild scheme, but Dignan is persistent and breaks through Anthony's reluctance and gets him to join him on a crime spree to impress Dignan's former boss, Mr. Henry, a supposed local crime lord. Dignan also gets another friend, Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave) to join the scheme. While Dignan goes about planning the caper, Bob tries to fend off his bully brother John, aka "Future Man" (Andrew Wilson--the overlooked Wilson brother) and Anthony falls in love with a Latino motel housekeeper named Inez (Lumi Cavazos). The film leads up to the caper itself, an event that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
All of the actors do a great job. I particularly liked Andrew Wilson (whose real childhood nickname was Future Man because he was seen as being so serious and looking to the future) and Kumar Pallana who portrays Kumar, a supposed expert safe-cracker that Dignan adds to his crime team.
Not everyone is going to enjoy watching BOTTLE ROCKET. The movie has a very odd pacing, even for a Wes Anderson film. It's evident that both the director and cast were adjusting to making a major picture. Also, since this is a Wes Anderson picture, not everyone is going to like, enjoy, or even understand the humor. There are no cheap gags or easy jokes. Instead, the comedy can best be described as intellectual-situational. In short, it's kind-of Wes Andersonish. A must-see for fans of Wes Anderson or any of the Wilson brothers as well as anyone who likes quirky dramatic-comedies.
***1/2 out of **** It's impossible for a guy like me not to enjoy something as endearingly off-kilter as Wes Anderson's debut. "Bottle Rocket" is a quirky movie that manages to surpass what the nigh hipster-like premise suggests. Yes, the humor is ironic and even a bit dark; but Anderson channels his energies like a true craftsman. While "Bottle Rocket" is a film which I greatly admire, it's not a film for everyone. Some people don't like this film or any of Anderson's follow-up … more
This quietly daffy comedy should have been an indie hit, but ended up ignored by audiences. Too bad; it's a wonderfully sustained caper movie about friends whose career choice is all wrong. Low-key Anthony (Luke Wilson) and high-strung Dignan (Owen C. Wilson--the two actors are brothers) are brought into a life of crime by Dignan's ambition to be a small-time thief. After a few amusingly laid-back trial burglaries, they (and a third buddy) find themselves over their heads when they hook up with an experienced crime boss (James Caan). Because this movie is so relentlessly deadpan, you really have to be dialed in to its brand of humor--but once there,Bottle Rocketshoots off plenty of sparks. Above all, Owen Wilson's portrayal of Dignan is a terrifically original comic creation; Dignan is so sincerely focused on his goals that he can't see how completely absurd his ideas are. Owen Wilson, who went on to supply similarly knuckle-headed performances inArmageddonandPermanent Midnight, wrote the screenplay with director Wes Anderson.--Robert Horton