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Bottle Rocket

Released: 1996

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 1 hr 31 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: James Caan, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Luke Wilson

Wes Anderson’s directorial debut, about two misfits planning a heist.

This came across more ridiculous than funny.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 7 years ago

BOTTLE ROCKET is a slacker crime comedy. As a very quirky comedy, it starts off well out of the gate. Dignan (Owen C. Wilson) is helping Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) escape out of the window of a mental institution. Anthony has bed linen tied in knots so he can climb out of his second story window. Dignan is on watch with binoculars in the bushes and is signaling him with a hand mirror. This is a bit of overkill since this is a voluntary hospital where Anthony checked himself in for exhaustion and can leave anything he wants. Later his sister Grace (Shea Fowler) wonders how he could suffer from exhaustion since he never had a job in his life.

After the big "breakout", Dignan explains the life of crime he has planned for Anthony and himself. He has a college spiral notepad with criminal goals in different colors as if he was trying to get an A for his project in Burglary 101. After the movie's fresh start, Dignan's loquacious demeanor soon began to wear thin on me. I have a low tolerance for obnoxious people, and Dignan is the type that you would run from at a cocktail party.

Dignan has a plan for them to get in shape with lots of exercise and all of the right foods so that they will be ready for their heists. They do a couple of small jobs first including robbing Anthony's house. Their goal is to join the big time gang run by Mr. Henry (James Caan). Mr. Henry is the owner of a front operation called The Lawn Wranglers gardening service. James Caan's acting in BOTTLE ROCKET has to be the worse he has ever done. Embarrassingly bad. To be fair, most of the other actors were only acceptable except for one sweet one performance, but I'll get to that later.

For their little larceny jobs, Anthony and Dignan need a get-away man. Dignan formally interviews Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave) and chooses him because of his qualifications - unlike them, Bob has a car. The name of the story comes from their habit of shooting off bottle rockets and other fireworks from the windows of Bob's car as well as in fields.

Other than the very beginning, the only other part of the film that has some attraction are the scenes at the cheap motel where they stay in hiding after their first real robbery. At the motel Anthony meets and falls in love with Inez (Lumi Cavazos). Cavazos manages to rise above the pedestrian material and gives a lovely performance as an almost non-English speaking Paraguayan maid who works at the motel. I could not remember where I had seen her until I looked her up. She was the wonderful lead who played Tita in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. In my opinion, she is the only reason to see BOTTLE ROCKET, and she is the only character about whom I cared. I was kind of hoping the rest of them, especially Dignan would be run over by a truck.

The script by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson has all of the makings of a half baked idea. After the humor at the first, they seem devoid of follow-up ideas. They tried sight gags like having all of the crooks dress up in bright banana yellow jump suits for the big heist and have them wait to put on their masks until after everyone had seen their faces. This came across more ridiculous than funny. I do not remember any memorable lines from the show.

BOTTLE ROCKET runs 1:35. It is rated R for some violence and bad language, and it would be fine for teenagers. I do not recommend this fairly boring show, and I award it a single * solely for a good start and for some delicate acting by Lumi Cavazos.