Bottle Rocket

on February 21, 1996 by Michael Haile
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Executive produced by James L. Brooks, "Bottle Rocket" is a fresh, droll comedy by first-timers Owen C. Wilson and Wes Anderson, who met while classmates at the University of Texas at Austin. Based on their 13-minute, 16mm short, this $5 million feature version (mostly starring real-life friends and family) centers on the relationship among three twentysomething Texas buddies ineptly pursuing a life of petty crime. Less caper flick than comic character study of harmless misfits, this endearing tale is about loyalty and the importance of maintaining a childlike enthusiasm for life.
Dignan (Owen C. Wilson) is the unconventional, self-appointed leader of a band of would-be desperadoes: his sympathetic best friend Anthony (Luke Wilson) and their pal Bob (Robert Musgrave), who is enlisted because he's the only one who owns a car. After a nearly bungled bookstore heist, the trio go on the lam, holing up at a remote roadside motel. There, Anthony enters into a sweet romance with a young immigrant housekeeper named Inez ("Like Water for Chocolate's" Lumi Cavazos), disrupting Dignan's master plan to proceed with their crime spree in league with his idol, an experienced thief named Mr. Henry (James Caan).
Unlike many of their Gen-X counterparts, the filmmakers eschew hip cynicism and Tarantino-inspired tough-guy banter in favor of gentle, wry characterizations and dialogue that crackles with emotional warmth and absurdist wit. There are a few rough spots, but "Bottle Rocket" is a refreshingly original celebration of friendship and living out one's dreams (however misguided), with a central comic character whose sparkling vitality and innocence proves wildly infectious. Starring Owen C. Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Lumi Cavazos and James Caan. Directed by Wes Anderson. Written by Owen C. Wilson and Wes Anderson. Produced by Polly Platt and Cynthia Hargrave. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated R for language. Running time: 95 min.
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