Bottlerocket (1996)

By  · Published on September 27th, 2006

Release Date: February 21, 1996

Like a cheap bottle of beer exploding all over a frat guy’s “College” shirt on Sixth Street, there has been a recent explosion of filming in Austin. That being said, the movie Bottle Rocket was not actually filmed in Austin. It was, however, filmed mostly in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and in a town very close my heart – Hillsboro, Texas which sits just outside (a very familiar half-hour drive) of my Alma Mater’s sleepy hamlet of Waco, Texas.

So how good is film created so close to a town known mostly for fundamentalism and Branch Davidian Barbeques? From a first-time director? Introducing a little-known pair of acting brothers? If you’ve seen, and inevitably loved, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, then you already know the answer. And you already love their creator, Wes Anderson.

The story focuses on Anthony (Luke Wilson) who introduces himself by breaking out of a mental hospital at the behest of his friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) despite having voluntarily admitting himself. Dignan wants desperately to be a notorious criminal, although exactly what he means by that is never spelled out, and tries his bumbling best to make it happen. What happens next is an unnecessarily long planning period leading up to the big heist that will make the entire crew household names.

It’s awkward, but Anthony and Dignan are likable, nay, loveable, characters that grow on you the entire movie. Every misstep they take toward glory reminds the audience of the one friend they have who accidentally reported himself to the police while mooning the College President. From using their buddy’s house as a “base of operations” to not quite grasping the mechanics of firearms, most of the humor comes from good-natured people trying (and failing) to be immoral.

However, it is a film for a younger generation – and even then, a small segment of that generation that would rather see the tragic pseudo-downfalls and shortcomings of two pathetic heros than watching a pie get slammed into Will Ferrell’s face. Moreso, it’s a brilliant starting point for writer/director Wes Anderson because it represents his style so well. And his style of movies is needed these days like a life raft saving the millions of movie-goers lost in a sea of melodrama
and venomous enemies on gravity-defying mass-transit vehicles. Anderson does not replace his characters with cliches; he doesn’t radio for more explosions and call it a plot line. In a sense, he’s the Anti-Michael Bay.

If you love high concept, explosive romantic drama-comedies with well-known pop singers leading a cast of lovable animated animals sponsored by a soft-drink company, don’t watch Bottle Rocket. If you enjoy good cinema, rent it on DVD immediately. Even if you’ve seen it before. It’ll be a nice reminder that not everything is about Hollywood, and it might give you an idea of why so many are flocking to Austin, Texas to set the scene for their next big-budget project.

The Upside: Remember how everyone quoted Old School and Wedding Crashers so much
and how Owen and Luke Wilson became giant comedic stars? You should see
them actually act, and Bottle Rocket gives you that opportunity.

The Downside: The love story involving the motel maid (Lumi Cavazos) develops quickly
and seems to have little to do with the rest of the movie.

On the Side: The test screening of Bottle Rocket received the worst scoring that Columbia Pictures had ever seen.

Final Grade: A+

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