Customer Reviews: Bottle Rocket
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on June 14, 2004
Released in 1996, this is Wes Anderson's first feature movie and the beginning of a great career that has also included the fantastic quirky comedy-dramas "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums." "Bottle Rocket" isn't the equal of those films, but it is a great start to Anderson's career, and a fine little comedy. It also marked the beginning of the stardom of Owen Wilson, who co-wrote the script with Anderson and plays the most noticeable and memorable part. The film was shot in Texas, Anderson and Wilson's home state, based on a short film they had made two years earlier.
The movie has the type of laid-back and character-driven humor that won't appeal to everyone. This is comedy that doesn't target laughs or build up elaborate set-ups as most comedies do. Instead, the humor is continuously slow-pitched to you in the form of weird but likeable characters, off-center attitudes, and situations that seem familiar to us but are played in unreal ways and thus become extremely funny. All together, it's an extraordinarily enjoyable and pleasant movie that strolls through its story with no particular rush.
Owen's brother Luke Wilson, who had so far appeared in every Wes Anderson film, plays Anthony Adams, who gets out of a voluntary mental hospital after recuperating from a breakdown. His friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) has big plans for both of them -- a life of easy and enjoyable crime! Dignan doesn't have any good ideas, but tries to make up for it with endless enthusiasm and an outrageously optimistic view of life. Unfortunately, when things inevitably don't go well for him and his friends start criticizing him, he can fall into pretty bitter depressions. Owen Wilson has the character nailed down, and Dignan sets the tone for most of Wilson's other characters: the enthusiastic but misguided nut. Dignan gets his friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) in on his plan to pull a 'job' (and all of Dignan's 'jobs' are minor-league suburban affairs) that will attract the attention of the local crime boss/landscaper, Mr. Henry (James Caan in a brief but darned funny performance). Dignan get obsessed with his planning and attempts at damage control, while Anthony and Bob are more busy with the really important things in their lives: Anthony falls for a housekeeper at a motel (Lumi Cavazos, from "Like Water for Chocolate"), and Bob tries to deal with his bully of a brother, Future Man (Andrew Wilson -- yep, another Wilson).
The film has some sad and serious moments -- after all, these are characters who are really going NOWHERE in a very boring suburban landscape -- but with Dignan around it never stays down for long. There are plenty of chuckles and some real moments of howling laughter, especially during the climatic 'take down' (and I'm really using that term pretty loosely). Another Wes Anderson favorite actor, Kumar Pallana, who appeared as Pagoda in "The Royal Tenenbaums," is on-hand to add comedy as a safe-cracker (and again, I'm really using that term loosely).
If you like quirky, odd, but realistic comedy, and if you've enjoyed Owen Wilson in many of his later performances, "Bottle Rocket" is really worth a look.
(This DVD is, unfortunately, nothing special. The picture and sound are good, but it hasn't a single extra on it, not even a trailer.)
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Taking a trip into Wes Anderson's head is like going into a parallel universe where most things are the same, but the nature of reality is just slightly warped. And that formula holds true for "Bottle Rocket," his first collaboration with actor Owen Wilson (who also stars), an absurdist crime caper.
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.
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on April 17, 2000
This movie grabbed my attention the first time I rented it at my local videostore for it's low key atmosphere and entertaining storyline. The highly persistent (if not entirely insane) Dignan, played by Owen Wilson has got to be one of the most memorable character portrayals in any movie I've ever seen. The slow pace of the movie makes everything just right (you won't be blown away by special effects, unless you consider an altogether cerebral script pyrotechnic) but you will come away from this movie with a sense of adventure and a deep desire for one yourself. The fact that this movie is practically a remake of an earlier project adds even more to its appeal. The caper scenes are hilarious, the dialogue will make you think as well as laugh, and you will come away from this movie with a new appreciation for film making in general. It's not all about explosions after all. And you will find yourself scaring the hell out of your friends when for no reason at all you start screaming "Ka-Caw, Ka-Caw!". If you like this movie check out Rushmore, also directed by Wes Anderson.
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on November 25, 2001
Bottle Rocket is a film by Wes Anderson, who, along with actor Owen Wilson wrote this fantastic film full of smart humor and unique directing. Everything done in the film is intentional, such as the outfits worn and the colors used in the background. Anderson's unique visual style along with Owen Wilson's hysterical comedic delivery make this film an absolute keeper. It stars 3 would be criminals who hold up a bookstore and then run off and hide in an unknown remote hotel. The trio leaves at a burst of catastrophe which involves one of the characters brother who has trouble with the law. The end result is a final commission from a big wig thief (James Caan) whom Owen Wilson's character idolizes to rob an old factory. The story drags a bit at the hotel sequence, but the hysterical finale makes it all worthwhile. I must mention as well that the characters are great and very unique in that each of their personalities has something massively easy to remember.
The dvd has no extras, and seeing as the film is spawned off of a 30 minute short of the same name, it would have been great to see some extras treatment. Comparitively, the commentary track and extras that were piled onto the Criterion Collections "Rushmore" dvd make you wish even more that "Bottle Rocket" could have gotten at least something(Anderson and Wilson's commentary in "Rushmore" open the eyes of the viewer to so many great things that most likely would have gone much more for this one!). Yet as it stands, I think we are lucky this film is on dvd at all.
The music is wonderful, completely unique, and adds to every scene. The humor in the movie is comparable to Anderson's other film "Rushmore" as well as the hidden gem "Safe Men" in that it is very dialogue driven. Fans of "Tommy Boy" or "Ace Ventura" may not enjoy the humor quite as much. It is like "Waiting for Guffman" in that the first time you see it you may laugh out loud a bit, but you will quote the movie for weeks after. The second viewing is always the best, and each time after I have noticed different expressions from the characters and laughed in many different places. So give it a try and check out something new. This is Owen Wilsons first movie, Wes Anderson's first feature film, and it is the first of (hopefully) many collaborative efforts to come. Also check out "Rushmore" and the soon to be born "Royal Tenenbaums".
I gave the dvd 4/5 stars due to the lack of the extras, but the print is clean, it can be viewed in either wide or full screen, and the movie-though not flawless-is one of a kind.
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on January 27, 2000
This film got me through college. Honestly, it became the subject of a 54 page senior thesis in English that I completed (B+) to graduate. What does that tell you? Well, it says that this movie is so pithy that one can find 54 pages of criticism. Matt Groening says that the Simpsons is "a show that rewards you for paying attention." I think this applies ten-fold to Bottle Rocket. Pay attention: to what Dignan says in the hallway of Bob's house, to Dignan's 25 year plan notebook, etc.,. No product plugs, an ethereal feel -- one big lost summer -- , a soundtrack that follows the story in tempo and lyric, and one of the most captivating and romantic relationships ever portrayed on screen. Nothing has been done as tastefully as the "love scene" between Anthony and Inez.
This isn't the story of slackers or idiots or degenerates. Bottle Rocket is the tale of Innocents lost.
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on January 5, 2006
This is a movie that some people will find boring and that some people will find very very funny. I am part of the latter group.

Essentially, `Bottle Rocket' is about 3 young men. 1.) Anthony (Luke Wilson) - a somewhat caring, laid back and under-motivated dude. 2.) His pal Dignan (Owen Wilson) - an extremely motivated - albeit misguided - and overly energetic guy, who is perhaps a little clueless. And 3.) Bob - a guy who always wears Reservoir Dog-esque suits; Bob seems frequently annoyed by Dignan's antics but puts up with him because he is kind of lonely.

The plot of this movie is really not that important, and I fear that a too thorough description might be misleading. Yes - the film revolves around the three friends' attempts at small crimes, but this is not a slap-stick comedy about burglaries gone awry (even though they are entirely inept and even though the burglaries are extraordinarily funny). Rather, this is a very dry comedy that thrives on dialogue (vs. physical humor). If you've seen writer/director Wes Anderson's other films (such as `Rushmore' and `The Royal Tenenbaums'), you know what I mean.

This movie is one of my all-time favorite comedies (and my favorite of the Anderson films) for two reasons.

1. The characters are entirely likeable. They're doofuses, but they are really sweet. It's impossible not to root for them. For instance, when they rob a local bookstore, they don't blast into it like a bunch of tough guys. They are bumbling and apologetic - and yet, as giddy as can be. I mean - they're really excited to be hanging out with each other and to be pulling off this heist. It's almost like a bonding experience for them. And this is the tone throughout the film. Despite disagreements, they really care for each other. Their playfulness (and quasi-innocence) is accentuated by the lighthearted soundtrack (which is also excellent).

2. The delivery in this film could not be more subtle. Let's contrast the humor in `Bottle Rocket' with the sort of humor exhibited by other contemporary comedians. Take Will Farrell. When he delivers a funny line, he's usually half naked, his eyes are bulging out of his head, and he shouts it at the top of his lungs so that everyone can hear him. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Will Farrell. I mean, I personally don't find him that funny, but I know a lot of people who do. I just want to use him as a point of contrast. Now take this scene from `Bottle Rocket' and compare:

Dignan is in a ridiculous yellow jumpsuit on some sort of rundown moped and is talking to Anthony. Bob's macho and not-so-nice older brother - Future Man - pulls up in a jeep and mocks Dignan's attire. After Future Man drives away, Dignan is feeling pretty hurt. Anthony tries to make him feel better and says something to the effect of, "Come on, man. Did you see what he was wearing?" (Future man had on a waspy, pastel colored polo shirt.) Dignan replies under his breath (I didn't even catch the line the first time I saw this movie) and in all seriousness, "Yeah. It was pretty cool..." This is the sort of comedy I love. It's not in-your-face. It's barely on the radar. If subtle humor likewise appeals to you, then chances are you will love `Bottle Rocket.' Worth noting, for those of you who have seen `Royal Tenenbaums' and are expecting something more or less identical - `Bottle Rocket' is in the same vein of comedy - but is definitely more subtle and less "colorful." I just want to warn you so that your expectations don't cloud your appreciation of this hilarious film.
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on February 27, 2015
I didn't see the movie but the thing told me to write "a review" so I just did.
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on May 30, 2012
I have purchased and viewed all of Wes Anderson's films in the past month or so and I have got to say that I am thoroughly impressed. Rushmore, probably his most popular and acclaimed film, is an interesting story focusing on one character (very uncharacteristic of Anderson), Max Fischer. The Royal Tenenbaums, in my opinion, is TECHNICALLY his best achievement to date. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited were both solid entries that I thought were great despite a lack of a certain something (still trying to figure it out). Fantastic Mr. Fox was an extremely well done stop-motion film adapting a story from Roald Dahl. My FAVORITE however is his debut film, Bottle Rocket.

I have now seen Bottle Rocket three times (in the past like 2 months) and on the third viewing, I decided to take some notes. What resulted was a 13-page in depth analysis of the themes and threads pumping through the heart of the film. My favorite aspect of Bottle Rocket is the character development. The character, Dignan, I believe is the most completely realized character of any of Wes' films and possibly the most tragic. Loneliness is the most prominent theme in the film, Dignan being the vehicle for the theme. Through my intense note taking, I was able to find some things that some people may not have picked up on.

Observations: After *successfully* breaking Anthony out of a voluntary hospital, Dignan and Anthony take a bus back home. On the bus, as soon as Anthony begins to talk about his emotional disturbances, Dignan switches the subject because he is uncomfortable talking about emotional problems.
"You know there's nothing to steal from my mom and CRAIG." - Dignan. The fact that Dignan uses a first name probably signifies that Craig is the step-father i.e. daddy issues.
Throughout the film, Dignan tries to cultivate a relationship with his former employee Abe Henry, whom he looks up to as a father figure.
Dignan recruits Anthony and Bob into his "team", brother figures. The film depicts Anthony's sibling and Bob's sibling, but never shows or mentions Dignan having siblings. Only child = loneliness.
Dignan is very much a child trapped in the body of a control freak/army commander type guy. He throws tantrums but at the same time has the urge to be in control of every situation at all times. Anthony and Bob, unfortunately for Dignan, have a much different attitude towards their heists, theirs being more laid back and only semi-committed. Wes even shows us this through the characters haircuts. Dignan has a short hair cut and is even at one point mistaken as being in the army because of it. Anthony and Bob both have long hair that further shows their more laid back attitude. While Dignan plans out their heists to the last detail, Anthony is usually drawing while Bob is wrapped up in his brother.
Also a very minute detail I picked up on was the number of the motel room they stayed in. The room number is 212. This possibly suggests that the two '2s' are Anthony (who has Inez) and Bob (who has Futureman) and the lone '1' in the middle is Dignan. Also the adress of the Lawn Wranglers headquarters is 2215. Again, the '2s' are Anthony and Bob, the '5' is the Lawn Wranglers crew, and the lone '1' is again, Dignan.
"He thought he had a team, turns out to be a man alone. Now, that's tough now. Real tough." - Mr. Henry speaking of Dignan. This totally captures Dignan up to that point in the movie and really foreshadows what happens during the final heist where he is let down by his entire crew and in turn is the only one who is punished for the 'attempted' crime.
The ending is very bittersweet. On one hand, Dignan is in jail but on the other, it seems like he is growing up. He makes belt buckles while in prison and tells Anthony and Bob that they could give them to Mr. Henry (who totally used Dignan to get closer to Bob and ultimately robs his house) and Apple Jack (who was caught at the scene but the charges were dropped because of his medical condition). He also jokes to Bob and Anthony about an escape plan which shows that he has accepted his fate. This is truly a coming of age story.

I could continue to go on about the analysis (and trust me, I COULD), but I want to touch on other areas of the film. First of all, the acting is absolutely spectacular. Owen Wilson's portrayal as Dignan is one of the most 'real' performances I have ever seen. It definitely helps that he co-wrote it with Anderson. Luke Wilson was also great as Anthony. There is one scene that really shows his talent. It is when he and Dignan are stuck on the side of the road after their car breaks down and Dignan refers to Inez as the "housekeeper". The look in Luke's eyes after he says that is actually kind of chilling. That takes skill. Robert Musgrave was definitely well suited for Bob and his performance is definitely on par with Owen and Luke but he was just given less material to work with than them. James Caan gives a very unique performance as Abe Henry. It was an odd but effective choice. AND YOU CAN'T FORGET KUMAR! Nothing makes me laugh more than when Dignan walks in on Kumar sitting on a couch while he should be cracking a safe.

Style wise, this is probably Wes Anderson's least "Wes Anderson" film. After Bottle Rocket, he really defined his style and stuck with it for the rest of his career. The cinematography by Robert Yeoman is simply superb and he manages to craft some stunningly beautiful shots. The music by Mark Mothersbaugh is indeed effective while the choice of already recorded music by Anderson is great. I found that "Seven and Seven is" by Love and "2000 Man" by The Rolling Stones define the scenes that they are played in and Anderson continued to burn scenes into our memories through his use of music in the rest of his films.

Making a long story short (too late), Bottle Rocket is in my top 10 films of all time. All the characters are just so rich and fleshed out that I find it irresistible to come back and continue to watch and enjoy there little quirks and mannerisms. I just find it amazing that all of the newcomers (Wes, Owen, Luke, and Bob Musgrave) met each other (obviously Owen and Luke didn't meet up, haha), created this masterwork, and now are all famous and successful (not so much Bob). This film gets my absolute highest recommendation if you have yet to see it. I urge you to watch it multiple times though so you can really catch the genius and depth of the characters. Also, check out Wes Anderson's other movies, especially The Royal Tenenbaums, which also delves deep into it's characters and is considered by many to be a near masterpiece.

On a final note, I also CANNOT WAIT for Moonrise Kingdom to come to my town. When I found out that it was initially only being released in New York and Los Angeles, I almost lost it. I have since cooled down and decided to appreciate the films I already have by him to their fullest before worrying about Moonrise Kingdom.

Thank you for your time.
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on April 12, 2001
An incredible movie with dialogue nearly on par with "The Big Lebowski." A review on the box says "Reservoir Geeks," but anyone who comes away with only that impression has been lured by the Hollywood hook and really misses the depth of this film.
Amongst the many brilliant one-liners and silly cite gags (there are lots!) is a truly profound story of friendship, sacrifice and the importance of following your dreams. Disillusioned with the vanity and idleness of "laying out by the boat house" with sorority girls, Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) "goes nuts" but is able to resurrect himself by helping his bumbling friend Dignan live out his oddball dreams. In the end Anthony and Dignan are exactly where they dreamed they'd be even though one's in jail and the other dating a housekeeper who can't speak English.
If nothing else, this movie is worth watching only to see Owen Wilson play Dignan, who is easily one of the best comedic characters of the last decade. Wilson plays the character as well as anyone could, which is no surprise since he also co-wrote the film with Wes Anderson, who is himself one of the hottest young director's in Hollywood. A cast of fresh faces (minus James Caahn, who's fantastic), great performances, and a remarkable screenplay make this an absolute must for fans of the modern, 20-something comedy and beyond.
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on August 3, 2015
Maybe I'm too old but I just don't "get it". The Wilson brothers play friends along with Bob. While hanging out in a motel, the "normal" Wilson falls in love with Inez, the Paraguayan maid who eventually kicks him to the curb.

Bob, the only one with a car, bails out after his brother is busted as a dealer with Bob's pot growing in the backyard.

This is definitely a movie you either get it don't. Highlights of the movie are Anthony's letters to Grace, his younger sister at camp and James Caan's tirade with Jonathan in the club.
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