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Bottle Rocket (1997)

November 17, 2010

7/10 Small-Time Crooks

It’s no Rushmore, but it’s still pretty darn good.

Bottle Rocket is about a guy who “escapes” from a mental hospital after he “went nuts” and meets up with his best friend who’s got their future careers as wannabe gangsters planned out to a tee. Since our ex-mental case is a nice guy and doesn’t want to crush his pal’s dreams of a life in organized crime, he goes along with the idiotic plans of bumping off libraries and how they’re going to live through the 21st Century all while trying to figure out what he wants from life in the process.

So, the debut effort by Wes Anderson – every whitey’s favorite director – and the movie-going world’s first introduction to a group of Wilson brothers who weren’t responsible for Pet Sounds. Cool beans, easily one of the more pivotal moments in world history. Then again, I am white and I do generally dig Wes Anderson.

From a visual standpoint, it’s an Anderson movie through and through. Very meticulous, very stylized, very cracker-friendly stuff that’s a lot harder to explain in text than it is to just watch it. And that’s all good, it’s cool to see where that signature look and feel of his started and it doesn’t feel amateurish even though it’s only improved over the years.

I guess the only difference here from everything else Anderson’s done is the story. My thinking is that Anderson movies is that when you peel back the layers, they’re all about fathers and sons. Take the relationship between Royal and Chas in The Royal Tenenbaums, Steve Zissou’s relationship with his long-lost son in The Life Aquatic (which really just felt like Tenenbaums on a boat, only not as good), that fantastic Mr. Fox’s relationship with his unathletic son, the whole reason Owen Wilson gets his brothers to head out on The Darjeeling Limited is to properly mourn their father’s death, and then there’s the way Herman Blume considers Max Fischer more of a son than his own shithead kids in Rushmore. Just a theory, but I think I’m onto something. Anyway, Bottle Rocket is the only exception to the rule.

It’s about two very different guys who happen to be best friends because one can’t help but sympathize for the other, throw in some armed robbery, and that’s kind of it. No daddy issues, no nothin’, but that’s alright. It’s not a great story by any means and it doesn’t hit a whole lot of emotional notes, what with the Spanish-speaking hotel maid romance angle that goes on for way too long and probably could have been nixed from the get-go, but it’s fun to watch, it’s fun to listen to and it made me laugh more often than not. And that’ll do.

So I’ve always liked Luke Wilson, he seems like an easy-going dude and he rocks his monster jaw like a boss, and while he’s solid as Anthony, this is one’s all about big brother Owen. “The Nose” (no idea why more people don’t call him that) plays Dignan, an individual whose whole life seems to be one big delusion of grandeur and is more enthusiastic about his “badass” existence than you’ve been about anything ever. You can’t really blame folks for raggin’ on him because he does come off as a bit of a joke, but since Dignan is harmless and every guy’s had pipe dreams of being a criminal as their day job, everyone just comes off like a royal dick whenever they give him a hard time. His ideas are ridiculous, so are his mood swimgs that go from ecstatic to versus mode for reasons he can’t really explain, but that’s the appeal. Sure is a hell of a lot more interesting than anyone else he’s involved with.

Plus we get a James Caan cameo, which is always nice. Bonus points for a bit role by oldest brother Andrew Wilson as a guy named Future Man. Awesome. And give yourself a high-five if you knew there was another Wilson brother. You are now officially ready for Jeopardy!

But the script could have been stronger. I’ve seen this movie two or three times now and it’s still hard to pick up on all the deadpan laughs since Dignan’s mind operates at the speed of a cheetah that’s just been force-fed a case of Four Loko. One of those comedies that wish I’d watched with someone else who loves it, who knows it front-to-back and can cue me in as to when I should be laughing along, because chances are I totally would be.

I feel like this has been a pretty blah review about a pretty good movie, but I think Bottle Rocket is just something you need to see with the right crowd. Not to say that it wasn’t funny seeing it by myself, but you know what I mean; had the same problem with The Big Lebowski and now that’s in my Top Ten Comedies. Not the worst thing Anderson’s ever done by a long shot, it’s got a good deal of laughs and the career-launching potential here is hard to miss. “The Nose” really needs to go back to doing more stuff like this.

Sweet soundtrack, too.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2010 10:54 am

    I like this movie, in fact I own it for some reason. So maybe I can fulfill your wish Aiden and bring this over sometime so you can watch it with someone who really appreciates it. (Man I feel like a douchebag for saying that). I agree with you that the love interest could be cut from the movie, but other than that I really like the story. I like crazy characters like Dignan, and you know I love robbery/gangster flicks, and so Anderson’s innocent take on a crime movie is something I can really appreciate as I am a film enthusiast who happens to be a cracker. Also James Caan is the man!!!!

    P.S. Remember the B.B. gun fight in the Royal Tenenbaums? The scene of the hand with the bb in it is actually the hand of oldest Wilson brother aka Future Man. He makes guest appearances in alot of Anderson flicks. Jeopardy here I come.

    • November 17, 2010 11:02 am

      Hahaha. That’s about the best Future Man trivia I’ve ever heard, man. Yeah, I remember borrowing your copy to watch at the helpdesk one time. It’s good stuff, but anytime you wanna boot this up and raid your dad’s liquor cabinet again, I’m down. And James Caan *is* the man. You ever see Misery?

  2. November 17, 2010 3:05 pm

    I give it more credit considering it is his first film, and it’s good to say the least, just kind of dull. I also liked how you mentioned “the other Wilson bro”, Andrew, who could actually have a future in comedy, if he can get away from the fact that his brothers are Owen and Luke. Good Review!

    • November 17, 2010 4:47 pm

      haha. it’s too bad Andrew is “the other Wilson brother”. probably has the most Hollywood-esque looks going for him and, after all, he is Future Man. but yeah, good movie, but a bit on the dull side. well said, homey.

  3. November 17, 2010 3:30 pm

    Dig the review, as expected.

    Bottle Rocket features one of my all time favorite movies quotes: “On the run from johnny law…ain’t no trip to Cleveland.”

    • November 17, 2010 4:49 pm

      hahaha. good quote, man. that line more than any other really stuck out to me for some reason, think it had to do with the way his two friends walked back to the car and he just stuck around in the lot to say that of all things to no one. i hope you’ve gotten to use that in conversation, i would be impressed.

  4. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    November 17, 2010 4:29 pm

    still my favorite wes anderson movie. hard to explain why, but i can watch it over and over. i love the subtle laughs and the cinematography.

    • November 17, 2010 4:51 pm

      great cinematography as usual from Wes and a whole lot of subtle laughs. think i need to watch it over and over to get the full effect, but still a solid effort as is. #1 spot goes to Tenenbaums for me though.

  5. November 18, 2010 10:00 pm

    “and the movie-going world’s first introduction to a group of Wilson brothers who weren’t responsible for Pet Sounds.” – yet another reason why I love CTC!

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