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Bottle Rocket (1996)

Comedy movie directed by Wes Anderson

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Quirky and heartfelt debut.

  • Apr 29, 2011
***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 work, which is OK, since you really do have to adapt to the man's style. This isn't his best movie thus far, but it's still a spectacular example of how to get your name noticed in the world of cinema.

Wes Anderson is interested in telling his stories through emotions and conversation. His films are about the human connection more than anything, or at least, the human desire to converse. This film is about a trio of unlikely friends who aspire to be famous thieves.

There's Dignan, the blonde, self-proclaimed "leader" of the group. He's sort of a cocky but ambitious young man, and he comes up with what he calls the 75-Year Plan. He's a real loony.

And then there's Anthony, a more sensitive but overall loyal companion to Dignan. He has his little emotional struggles, and often times has to keep up with Dignan's own big ambitions. He too understands that he's aiming perhaps a bit too high.

Lastly, there's Bob, who comes off as a spoiled rich kid who is frequently picked on by his older kin for being a complete nobody. Bob does not work; Bob does not do ANYTHING, and he's damn ashamed of it. That's why he probably wanted "in" on the exploits of our heroes; because he was just so darn bored.

Most of the story concerns our characters trying to make a successful heist, beginning with a book store. These heist sequences, while not in large surplus, are always amusing and funny in one way or another. There's also a sub-plot, which moves into the third act, involving a long-time acquaintance of Dignan; Mr. Henry. Each of our three characters look up to Mr. Henry because of his tough, mean attitude towards just about anything. He's the kind of guy who could spit in your face, laugh, and still chomp his cigar like a true winner.

Characters are often boosted by their actors. Here, Owen and Luke Wilson play two of the leads; each unique in their own way. I appreciate this side of Owen Wilson's career; thoughtful and non-lame. And I also liked Luke Wilson's performance, which is among the finest of his career. Bob is played affectionately by Robert Musgrave, who isn't even popular enough to have his own Wikipedia page. But the person who tends to stand out the most is James Caan as Mr. Henry. Caan is such a great performer because he has a charm in his demeanor. You look at his character here, and you do not feel fear or intimidation; you simply want to get in on whatever joke he's got on his mind.

This film has some very big laughs, most of them which we don't even laugh at; not initially. What I like about this film is that its characters are incredibly pretentious slackers, and they keep those personality traits throughout. The characters do evolve into better and more intelligent beings over time, and I liked the story that Wes Anderson was trying to dictate to the audience. It may not reach half the audience, and neither will the joke, but I think Anderson's got a heck of a cult-following going for him. Most of his films are destined for one such fate; because they're so brilliant, yet so underrated. Brilliance is in the eye of the beholder, and if you watch "Bottle Rocket" and find it to be the stupidest piece of comedic trash you've ever seen, then don't say I didn't warn you.

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More Bottle Rocket (1996 movie) reviews
review by . April 05, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
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, …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
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It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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
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Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: February 21, 1996
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
DVD Release Date: December 22, 1998
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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