"I learned more in the 2 months I spent with Mr. Henry and this crew than I learned in 15 years of academic study."
Bottle Rocket was not only the feature film debut for director Wes Anderson, but it was also the debut for Owen and Luke Wilson who both gave inspiring performances. This is where it all started for Wes Anderson and despite not being a box office hit he slowly built a reputation for himself by remaining unique to his quirky sense of humor. Many criticized the fact that these characters didn't seem real, and that is probably true for all of Anderson's film where he focuses on dysfunctional characters with a whimsical sense of humor. Anderson's comedies are very different and they aren't for mainstream audiences, thus the reason why the screening of this film scored the worst test screening points in the history of Columbia Pictures during that time. I am glad Wes stayed true to his style and didn't sell out because his next films share similar trademarks which he began establishing in Bottle Rocket. This is perhaps his most normal looking film if you take into account the cinematography, but the quirky sense of humor is pretty much the same as well as some other technical aspects of the film (the font title cards at the beginning and the slow motion shot at the end). The same can be said for Owen Wilson who kind of plays this dumb but nice guy character in most of his comedies. It's not Anderson's best work, but his quirky style began taking shape with Bottle Rocket.
The screenplay was co-written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson from a short they had made a couple of years earlier. The film opens with Dignan (Owen Wilson) trying to help his best friend, Anthony (Luke Wilson) escape from a mental institution. Dignan has designed a great escape plan, but what he doesn't know is that Anthony can leave the institution upon his free will considering he voluntarily signed up for it after he had a nervous breakdown from exhaustion. This opening scene clearly establishes that Dignan is less sane than Anthony. He has established a long term plan for the two involving a criminal spree. The first step is robbing Anthony's mother's house but they can only take a few valueless items. The idea is that they get some criminal experience so they can catch the attention of Dignan's former boss, Mr. Henry (James Caan), who is sort of a legend in the criminal world. Next they plan a bookstore robbery, but this time they will need a getaway driver so they convince their friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) to join them. After successfully achieving their plan they hide out at a nearby motel where Anthony falls deeply in love with a Paraguayan maid named Inez (Lumi Cavazos). This is where the dysfunctional group of friends breaks down and things take a turn for each one of them.
Bottle Rocket was on Martin Scorsese's list of his top 10 favorite movies of the 90's. The quirky sense of humor isn't for everyone, but fans of Wes Anderson's comedies will really enjoy this considering it was the birthing point of some of his technical achievements. It may be less depressing and cynical in tone than some of his other comedies, but the whimsy characters he creates are very familiar. You can clearly see the fascination he has for exploring these dysfunctional relationships of dorky middle to upper class people. It's a refreshing film and very different from your standard buddy comedy. It's witty and despite not having many hilarious moments, the film does manage to keep a smile on your face for most of its runtime. For a debut performance Owen Wilson really shines on screen and delivers his lines with perfect timing. I really enjoyed this offbeat comedy although I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't a fan of Wes Anderson. I always recommend my favorite, The Royal Tenenbaums, to people who haven't seen any of his film.