Bottle Rocket (1996)

bottle-rocketDo you have trouble saying no to a friend? In February 1996, Anthony was about to embark on a big time crime spree… at least that’s what his friend Dignan had planned for them.

Directing this 91 minute comedy/crime/drama is Wes Anderson.

Some of the cast is: Luke Wilson as Anthony Adams, Owen Wilson as Dignan, Robert Musgrave as Bob Mapplethorpe, Lumi Cavazos as Inez and James Caan as Mr. Abe Henry.

Anthony is just getting out of a psychiatric hospital, and already his friend Dignan has their future planned out. Dignan’s plan is for him and Anthony to pull off a few heists together and go on the run while the heat dies down. Then when the time is right, the guys meet up with Dignan’s associate, Mr. Henry, and join his crew of criminals. Unfortunately, as is life, things don’t always go the way they’re planned…

This film was not only Anderson’s directorial debut, but was also the debut feature for Owen and Luke Wilson. Apparently, the film is based on a 13 minute short called Bottle Rocket (1994), that was shot in black and white, which was directed by Anderson and also starred Musgrave and the Wilson brothers. Both the short and the feature length film where co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson.

For those that might have some doubt about Anderson’s skills. Back in 2008, Bottle Rocket was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection, with the 13 minute short as one of the bonus features. For those of you who don’t know The Criterion’s mission: “Since 1984, the Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, has been dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” So, having four of your films make that kind of cut shows you’re doing pretty good at what you’re doing!


What I liked about the story Anderson and Wilson came up with was how on the surface it seems pretty simple, in the sense that it’s about a couple friends shooting for a dream. Yet, as simple as that storyline sounds, the way the story unfolds carries some really good depth and realism. The story and the interactions between the characters reminded me of moments you could/have had with friends in real life. Now, no I’ve never been talked into a crime spree by my friends, least not that I’m willing to admit to here… However, I’ve had moments where saying no to a friend was hard to do because they were so excited by their current brainstorm. Even though I knew it wouldn’t work, I jumped on board and went through with it because they were my friend. It’s those moments of realism that (to me) made the film so good, because I could relate to and feel (to a degree) what the characters were going through. Another good thing this one had going for it was the continuous character growth. Even up to the end of the story the characters are still evolving and adding something to the story.

The playthrough keeps an even and steady pace the entire time, and between the witty dialogue and the humorous scenes it kept my attention the entire time. Right from the opening you know you’re about to go on an odd but fun ride. I’m always happy when stories give back-stories on characters. I think it adds to the storyline and helps the audience connect to the characters. This film is a great example of that. It’s also a great example of how sometimes a little goes a long way. The writers didn’t spend a lot of time on the characters past, just a few lines here and there and you get where the characters are coming from and how they got to where they are now, which added another level of the depth I was talking about with the story.


I thought the cast did a really good job and Caan popping in real quick was a nice surprise. Even though I’m not a huge Owen Wilson fan, he surprised me in this one. I really liked the innocence of Owen’s character and thought he stole the show a few times. The Wilson brothers worked well off each other and the chemistry between them (probably due to the whole growing up together thing) made it seem like the characters had a genuine friendship between them.

There are not a lot of special effects in this one. All the scenes are from everyday settings. So, I’m not really sure why this one cost $7 million to make. I’m guessing most of that went to Cann’s paycheck, who knows!

Side note: Come to find out, Bottle Rocket was kind of a pro and con for Anderson. Con – The movie had a budget of $7 million, but a box office return of $560,069 making it a commercial failure. However, the movie launched Anderson’s career by drawing attention from critics…pro! So, even though the film wasn’t a huge success, when your work grabs the attention of someone like Martin Scorsese and you find out he said, while guest hosting on an episode of Roger Ebert & The Movies back in 2000, “Bottle Rocket was one of his top 10 favorite 90’s movies.” does it really matter if it was a blockbuster?

Summary : If you haven't seen this one, you should! It's well worth killing a Saturday night to watch it.

It's rated R for violence and language.