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BOTTLE ROCKET (director/writer: Wes Anderson; screenwriter: Owen C. Wilson; cinematographer: Robert Yeoman; editor: David Moritz; music: Mark Mothersbaugh; cast: Luke Wilson (Anthony Adams), Owen C. Wilson (Dignan), Robert Musgrave (Bob Mapplethorpe), Lumi Cavazos (Inez), James Caan (Mr. Henry), Ned Dowd (Dr. Nichols), Shea Fowler (Grace), Andrew Wilson (John Mapplethorpe, Future Man), Haley Miller (Bernice), Jim Ponds (Applejack), Kumar Pallana (Kumar), Darryl Cox (Bookstore Manager), Dipak Pallana (Bookstore Employee); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Polly Platt/Cynthia Hargrave; Columbia Pictures; 1996)
“Owen Wilson is a riot as the mentally unbalanced inept middle-class thief.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The auspicious feature debut of director Wes Anderson (“Rushmore”/”The Darjeeling Limited”/”The Royal Tenenbaums”). It’s a charming offbeat slacker comedy about three immature young adult bumbling wannabe criminals. Anderson cowrites it with costar Owen C. Wilson, friends from their days at the University of Texas. It started out as a short and got expanded into a feature length movie thanks to director James L. Brooks pushing it to the right folks.

It follows the adventures of three twentysomething friends living in Texas, who under the influence of the daffy and addle-brained Dignan (Owen Wilson) go on a crime spree. Rich screw-up Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave), who grows marijuana in his backyard, agrees to drive the getaway car just so he can come along for the ride and escape from his macho bullying brother (Andrew Wilson, the third Wilson brother), while Anthony (Luke Wilson) is just released from his stay in an Arizona private sanitarium after suffering a nervous breakdown and can’t resist his best friend Dignan because he’s so enthusiastic about the caper. The three successfully holdup the local bookstore even though they do everything to botch the heist. They next stop off at a border motel to lay low. There Anthony falls madly in love with the Paraguayan housekeeper Inez (Lumi Cavazos), who only speaks a few words of English, and begins to lose enthusiasm for Dignan’s next bigger heist. Dignan introduces his boys to crime lord Mr. Henry (James Caan), who poses as the head of the Lawn Wrangler landscaping company–a place where Dignan was fired. Mr. Henry is someone who Dignan idolizes and is trying to impress by leading the factory heist with a few of Henry’s boys along for support, but the robbery is botched after Henry’s man Applejack is accidentally shot. But only Dignan winds up doing a two-year prison stretch, as he refuses to snitch on the others for reduced time. While the factory heist was taking place, Henry and his boys robbed Bob’s luxury home of all its expensive furniture.

The motifs in all the silliness revolve around such things as friendship and insanity intertwining, as a wired Owen Wilson is a riot as the mentally unbalanced inept middle-class thief and gives the film its breathless screwball comedy edge. The breezy film skirts around anything serious such as moral issues or real psychological problems and instead plays fast and loose with character development, which it accomplishes in a pleasing upbeat way as the characters easily bounce off each other’s zaniness without trying to hog the show or beat you over the head with how funny they seem to be.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”