BOTTLE ROCKET is a slacker crime comedy. As a very quirky
comedy, it starts off well out of the gate. Dignan (Owen C. Wilson) is
helping Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) escape out of the window of a
mental institution. Anthony has bed linen tied in knots so he can
climb out of his second story window. Dignan is on watch with
binoculars in the bushes and is signaling him with a hand mirror. This
is a bit of overkill since this is a voluntary hospital where Anthony
checked himself in for exhaustion and can leave anything he wants.
Later his sister Grace (Shea Fowler) wonders how he could suffer from
exhaustion since he never had a job in his life.
After the big "breakout", Dignan explains the life of crime he has
planned for Anthony and himself. He has a college spiral notepad with
criminal goals in different colors as if he was trying to get an A for
his project in Burglary 101. After the movie's fresh start, Dignan's
loquacious demeanor soon began to wear thin on me. I have a low
tolerance for obnoxious people, and Dignan is the type that you would
run from at a cocktail party.
Dignan has a plan for them to get in shape with lots of exercise
and all of the right foods so that they will be ready for their heists.
They do a couple of small jobs first including robbing Anthony's house.
Their goal is to join the big time gang run by Mr. Henry (James Caan).
Mr. Henry is the owner of a front operation called The Lawn Wranglers
gardening service. James Caan's acting in BOTTLE ROCKET has to be the
worse he has ever done. Embarrassingly bad. To be fair, most of the
other actors were only acceptable except for one sweet one performance,
but I'll get to that later.
For their little larceny jobs, Anthony and Dignan need a get-away
man. Dignan formally interviews Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave) and
chooses him because of his qualifications - unlike them, Bob has a car.
The name of the story comes from their habit of shooting off bottle
rockets and other fireworks from the windows of Bob's car as well as in
Other than the very beginning, the only other part of the film
that has some attraction are the scenes at the cheap motel where they
stay in hiding after their first real robbery. At the motel Anthony
meets and falls in love with Inez (Lumi Cavazos). Cavazos manages to
rise above the pedestrian material and gives a lovely performance as an
almost non-English speaking Paraguayan maid who works at the motel. I
could not remember where I had seen her until I looked her up. She was
the wonderful lead who played Tita in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. In my
opinion, she is the only reason to see BOTTLE ROCKET, and she is the
only character about whom I cared. I was kind of hoping the rest of
them, especially Dignan would be run over by a truck.
The script by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson has all of the makings
of a half baked idea. After the humor at the first, they seem devoid
of follow-up ideas. They tried sight gags like having all of the
crooks dress up in bright banana yellow jump suits for the big heist
and have them wait to put on their masks until after everyone had seen
their faces. This came across more ridiculous than funny. I do not
remember any memorable lines from the show.
BOTTLE ROCKET runs 1:35. It is rated R for some violence and bad
language, and it would be fine for teenagers. I do not recommend this
fairly boring show, and I award it a single * solely for a good start
and for some delicate acting by Lumi Cavazos.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes