Bottle Rocket (1996)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Former Child Star

Just Write

Shakes the Clown

Bottle Rocket

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Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

Anthony and Dignan
search their souls.
We have a friend named Amy. On occasion, Amy watches movies with us. Among the movies Amy has seen in our company are The Turning, Trancers 2, and The Lonely Lady. And yet Amy comes back for more, which might lead you to believe that Amy isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you take our meaning. She claims that she only comes over because we make certain statements that lead her to believe the movies we are going to watch are going to be good. We categorically deny this claim, but she's sticking to her story. This week Amy came over to see the movie Bottle Rocket.

Bottle Rocket is a first time directoral effort from Wes Anderson, and like most first time directoral efforts, it is a crime-escapade movie. Anthony (Luke Wilson) is a 21-year old slacker who checked himself into a mental hospital for "exhaustion." As the film opens, Anthony pretends to escape from the institution to satisfy the expectations of his friend Dignan (Owen Wilson, brother to Luke). Dignan fancies himself a world class thief and has come up with a detailed plan to rob a bookstore. Anthony goes along. Also in on the score is Bob (Robert Musgrave), whose main qualification for being in on the score is that he has his own car. When this first venture does not completely succeed, the three part company.

Some time later, Anthony is living with Bob (whose parents are indecently wealthy, it seems) and the two of them are holding down several part-time jobs. Dignan comes back into their lives, because he's hooked up with a cadre of local thieves and is planning a really big score. According to him, his plan involves "Laughing gas, pole vaulting, hang gliding." Anthony insists that Bob go along. Soon our happy gang is back at it. Anthony even finds true love.

Dignan justifies the film's name.
Bottle Rocket has a lot of fairly amusing dialogue and eccentric characters to go along with it. The flaw with this film, though, is that the middle of the film drags like a cinder block across concrete. "You know when you take two potty breaks and go outside to smoke two cigarettes during a ninety minute film, it's not holding your attention," to quote Amy. At times the pacing is off from scene to scene. The scenes that should be short seem long and the ones that could be long end abruptly. Sometimes it seems that the makers of the film are a little too in love with their own dialogue and don't know when to stop.

The influences here are pretty easy to divine: Bottle Rocket tries to be part Reservoir Dogs, part Clerks, and part Raising Arizona. The principal actors emote like graduates of the Nick Cage School of Acting, and the director desperately tries to recreate the madcap comedy of Raising Arizona's crime scenes with little success. It's also hard to really like any of the characters -- they're all so freaking dumb. The film isn't bad -- it just doesn't stand out. Perhaps we'll let Amy sum it up: "Of all the dumb-ass movies you guys have picked, this was the least offensive."

And last but not least, we thought we'd share this actual quote from Amy that night: "Tom Cruise, the [unlikely speculation about Mr. Cruise's sex life deleted], better grow five inches before he comes to talk to me about being a leading man. [More speculation deleted]ing Jerry Maguire can kiss my ass." Which is funny, because Tom Cruise wasn't in Bottle Rocket.

Review date: 01/07/1998

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