Film Review: Bottle Rocket (1996)

Release Date: February 21st, 1996
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, James Caan, Andrew Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, Donny Caicedo, Jim Ponds, Tak Kubota, Kumar Pallana

Gracie Films, Columbia Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Here are just a few of the key ingredients: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers – can you see how incredible this is going to be? – hang gliding, come on!” – Dignan

A commercial failure upon release, Bottle Rocket would go on to wow a lot of the top critics and still became a launching pad for the careers of Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers.

While not my favorite Anderson picture, I still love Bottle Rocket and the fact that it shows that Anderson wit and style yet is still pretty straightforward and not as stylized as his films would become after this one, starting with 1998’s RushmoreBottle Rocket feels like a Wes Anderson movie in spirit and substance but greatly differs in how it feels more grounded in reality.

At its core, this is a comedic heist picture. While that is a major plot point, the film is more about relationships and self discovery. While you get the feeling that this trio of bandits are going to fail miserably with the big heist, you can’t not be taken in by Owen Wilson’s goofy plan and charisma. His antics are hilarious and his schemes are even more amusing. The carelessness of how he handles his business and openly talks about his schemes in public make you wonder how these guys didn’t get arrested before the big job. But it all just adds to the brilliant absurdity of this entertaining movie.

The vast majority of the film was shot around Hillsboro, Texas – a small town midway between Dallas and Waco. The landscapes and environment have a really simplistic yet majestic feel to them. All the outdoor bits are shot really well and it is a real contrast to Anderson’s work after this picture, where he shoots a lot within the confines of very opulent and stylized interiors.

This is a 90s indie comedy of the best kind. It feels very indie and very 90s but still has an original appeal that very much makes it its own thing. Both Wilson’s are great, as is their buddy Bob, played by Robert Musgrave, a guy who should be in more movies. He pairs well with the Wilsons and matches their comedic timing and delivery quite well.

Bottle Rocket is a fun and amusing picture. It has a visual allure and is kind of sweet. It is a hard film not to like.

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