Because this movie is so relentlessly deadpan, you really have to be dialled in to its brand of humour--but you're once there, Bottle Rocket shoots 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 has since made something of a trademark out of similarly knuckle-headed performances in everything from Armageddon to Starsky & Hutch, wrote the screenplay with director Wes Anderson. --Robert Horton
Anthony (Luke Wilson) has just been released from a mental hospital after being treated for exhaustion ("You haven't worked a day in your life. How could you be exhausted?"). He hangs out with his idealistically weird pal Dignan (Owen Wilson), who has mapped out his life over the next 75 years. Dignan, having seen a TV special, has decided to become a master criminal.
First they recruitt the timid Bob (Bob Musgrave) as the getaway driver, as he is the only one who has a car. They practice for a while on smaller-time burglaries, such as robbing a bookstore -- then hiding out at a motel, where Anthony falls in love with the pretty South-American maid (Lumi Cavazos). However, the guys find themselves in hot water when they bump into a REAL crime boss (James Caan).
Wes Anderson's touch is a little rough in his movie debut, but it's that slightly unpolished touch that makes his offbeat style a delight here. For example, Anthony "escapes" from a hospital that he can leave anytime he wants. That unnecessarily complex opener sets the tone of the rest of the movie, of thrillseeking young men who are just a little out of sync with the rest of us.
Don't expect stupid puns, toilet humor and bad sex jokes. "Bottle Rocket" shares the dry, funny, erratic humor of Anderson's later movies. Not to mention a thousand funny little lines ("Bob stole his car!"). Anderson and Wilson avoid being self-consciously cool, in favor of being earnestly quirky. No banter, just wit.
The Wilson brothers are in fine form here, especially when interacting with one another. Anthony is calmer and thinks a lot; Dignan is idealistic and wacky almost to the point of mental illness. They have a certain innocence despite their illegal ambitions, and it's fun just to see them ramble around. They, Inez and Bob are sort of misfits, but not the kind you laugh at.
It's a little erratic, but "Bottle Rocket" comes across as fresh, weird, and extremely well-done. Funny, zany and charming crime comedy with a twist of Wes Anderson.
The story centers around Anthony (Luke Wilson), who just got out of a voluntary mental hospital, and his one-of-a-kind buddy Dignan (Owen Wilson). Dignan has big plans; in fact, he has the next fifty years charted out. This master plan of his calls for Dignan and Anthony to pull a few burglary jobs and thus impress the local landscaper (I mean, criminal mastermind) Mr. Henry (James Caan) so much that he makes them part of his crew. Dignan obsessively maps out each facet of his plans, treating them as daring capers of great importance, but Anthony and his friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) tend to get distracted rather easily. The first job, a little after-hours bookstore robbery, sort of succeeds despite itself, and the trio goes on the lamb until the supposed heat is off, holing up in a cheap motel out in the middle of nowhere. Here's where things start falling apart, at least insofar as Dignan is concerned. Bob's all worried about his brother having been arrested for the pot that Bob was growing in his own backyard, while Anthony falls in a rather pathetic - but awfully sweet - kind of love with Inez the housekeeper (Lumi Cavazos) - despite her limited knowledge of English. Everyone goes his separate way, basically, but the gang comes back together in order to pull their most ambitious (and, of course, wildly unsuccessful) heist yet. There's not a great deal of story resolution at the end, but that's okay; the film's ambiguity is actually one of its strengths.
Bottle Rocket is a decidedly quirky film, but the characters of Dignan and Anthony really grow on you. Poor Dignan, despite all of his big plans and enthusiasm, is really just a loser going nowhere, while Anthony basically just wants the world to slow down to his low-key pace and to be reunited with Inez. The whole film thrives on a fairly intellectual brand of comedy - no toilet humor, outrageous pratfalls, or low-brow, course jokes to generate cheap laughs. Sure, the movie is sort of stupid, but the comedy certainly isn't. Basically, you either get Bottle Rocket or you don't. That's probably one of the reasons that the film has never managed to generate a giant blip on the radar screens of movie viewers - and that's too bad because Bottle Rocket really is a funny little oddball of a film.
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