Bottle Rocket (1996)

bottle rocket movie poster luke owen wilson
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Shows where Anderson comes from, quirky

Not as developed as some of Anderson's more recent films

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Bottle Rocket

Studio:  Gracie Films

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  February 21, 1996

MPAA Rating:  R

bottle rocket owen wilson luke wilson

Sadly, this scene makes me wish for an old drugstore lunch counter….

Dignan (Owen Wilson) is a career criminal…at least he thinks he is.  When his friend Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) checks out of his voluntary mental institution, Dignan has a plan for how they can be rich forever!  Teamed with Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave), they pull off their first heist and find themselves on the lam.  Robbing the bank was easy but  has big plans and sticking to them might be difficult.  When Anthony meets a cleaning woman named Inez (Lumi Cavazos), and Bob returns home in a family crisis, Dignan must rethink his future and the future of the team.

Directed by Wes Anderson and written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket was Anderson’s first foray into directing.  Though it received positive reviews, the movie was a box office flop, but since the rise in popularity by Anderson, Bottle Rocket has become a cult classic.  Bottle Rocket received a remastered release by Criterion (Criterion #450).

bottle rocket james caan karate wes anderson

Everybody was kung fu fighting!

I saw Bottle Rocket (like many) after the release of Rushmore.  Though it bombed at the theater, you can see Anderson’s style developing and you can see how Bottle Rocket let to his future hits.  Bottle Rocket is a fledgling attempt at flight, but with Anderson’s talent, it still remains better than most.

Anderson has excelled at the quirky movie, and Bottle Rocket shows the start.  Unlike a normal heist movie, the characters are rather off but unlike a normal comedy, the film is paired with a serious story about mental unbalanced people and crime.  It is these contrasts which often make up Anderson’s films and why Bottle Rocket works.  It is a little more undeveloped than some of Anderson’s later work, but it is still a strong entry in his canon.

bottle rocket sparkler owen wilson luke wilson lumi cavazos

Nothing says party like a sparkler!

This film also introduced the Wilson brothers.  While Owen Wilson never intended to act in the films, his Dignan helps really propel the story while Luke Wilson’s more sensitive and protective Anthony is the guiding force.  The hardest part for me is watching the two brothers not be related since they share a lot of similar traits and features.  The movie employs a lot of Anderson’s regulars, but also has James Caan in a rather small role as the “criminal mastermind” who helps Dignan try to achieve his potential.  It is a rather inane role for Caan who is usually more serious, so it is rather fun to see him play out of character.

Visually, Anderson has taken Bottle Rocket’s style and evolved it.  The shooting style, music, and editing is all here, but it isn’t up to the levels of Rushmore or his later entries.  This allows for a bit more focus on the plot, but it also leaves you wondering what Bottle Rocket would look like now if Anderson directed it.

Bottle Rocket is an entertaining film that doesn’t have as much pretense as some of Anderson’s current work.  It still has fun, and it still has style but it is a bit rawer than other film in Anderson’s output.  I love Anderson and he can hardly do any wrong in my eyes and Bottle Rocket shows him at his beginning.  Anderson followed Bottle Rocket with his classic Rushmore in 1999.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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