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Bottle Rocket (2-Disc)
DVD disk
11.28.2008 By: Mathew Plale
Bottle Rocket (2-Disc) order
Director:
Wes Anderson

Actors:
Owen Wilson
Luke Wilson
James Caan

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Three lifelong friends (the Wilsons, Robert Musgrave) plot a pair of robberies and a road trip, only to have one fall in love and another ditch the crew.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Wes Anderson’s debut feature, Bottle Rocket, is filled with elaborate schemes. Some are bound to be, but most are turned so by the bumbling trio we’re (at the same time) excited and embarrassed to hang around with: there’s Anthony, who “escapes” from a voluntary mental hospital, Dignan, the mastermind if you want to suggest he’s a master and has a mind, and Bob, the getaway driver.

The movie is bookended by a pair of comedic robberies. The first, a bookstore holdup, comes soon after Dignan (Owen Wilson, also co-writer) lays out his 75-year plan for himself and Anthony (Luke Wilson), which details how they’ll join the crew of landscaper/expert criminal Mr. Henry (James Caan, keeping his tough-guy persona close). The second, at a cold storage facility, involves more low-level crooks and is made even more complicated than necessary.

But it’s after the bookstore heist—when they boys go on the lam and shack up in a motel—that the film stumbles. Co-writers Anderson and Owen Wilson spend this centerpiece between Bob’s (Robert Musgrave) family obligations and Anthony’s lost-in-translation romance with Paraguayan maid Inez (Lumi Cavanos). Of course, things happen in these 24 minutes (over a quarter of the film’s length), like when the trio becomes a duo without a getaway car, but the pacing is thrown, only getting back on track in time for the second heist.

Bottle Rocket, as a whole, feels unpolished and uneven throughout, with energetic robberies tagged by stretches of endless dialogue, and characters bidding farewell only to reappear later on as if they have nothing better to do, making the film feel more episodic than the tight little story Anderson and Wilson likely intended.

But the film, based on Anderson’s 1994 short film that also starred the Wilson brothers, is not the failure I might be suggesting. Director trademarks like the use of precise camera angles (with help from cinematographer Robert Yeoman) and a pop/rock soundtrack (with help from Love and the Rolling Stones) are put to great use. If anything, Bottle Rocket is a fitting introduction to the world of Wes.
THE EXTRAS
Disc One:

Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Wes Anderson and Co-Writer/Actor Owen Wilson: Anderson and Wilson (via a “transcontinental phone call”) get nostalgic about their debut film, trading stories on the production, notorious screening, cast, filming locations, and much more. As expected, the pair has a brotherly chemistry, which makes the track an even better listen.

Disc Two:

The Making of Bottle Rocket (25:42): Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, James Caan, and other cast/crew sit down to reminisce about Bottle Rocket’s production, from initial table readings and Anderson’s unique eye to the disastrous previews and rediscovery of the film, with much more in between. There are a lot of stories thrown around, but the contributors have little time to elaborate on much.

Deleted Scenes: There are eleven here, which can be viewed separately or as a bunch. Included are moments featuring Bob’s insecurity and pot plants, the trio getting advice from Temple the gun salesman, Dignan’s affection for cops, a number of motel scenes, and Dignan and Applejack stalking Anthony, and more.

Murita Cycles (27:10): This 1978 short documentary directed by Anderson/Wilson family friend Barry Braverman served as an inspiration for the budding filmmakers.

The Shafrazi Lectures, No. 1: Bottle Rocket (10:31): Artist Tony Shafrazi (over?)analyzes the film, discussing characters, camerawork, and the film’s spirit while it projects on a studio wall.

Bottle Rocket (13:34): Anderson’s 1992 Sundance entry that served as the basis for his 1996 feature/Sundance reject.

Anamorphic Test (2:32): This test footage shows what Bottle Rocket would have looked like in Panavision.

Rounding out the second disc are Wes Anderson’s original Storyboards and a collection of behind-the-scenes Photos by Laura Wilson, mother of Andrew, Luke, and Owen, that span from 1992 to ‘95.

Also included on this 2-Disc Criterion Collection is a 20-page booklet, designed to look like Dignan’s notebook. Included is the 75-Year Plan, a tribute by Martin Scorsese (who named Bottle Rocket one of the 10 best films of the 1990s) from a 2000 issue of Esquire, and a James L. Brooks-penned piece used as the introduction for the Rushmore screenplay.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Bottle Rocket isn't the worst in Wes Anderson's filmography (that spot belongs to The Darjeeling Limited), but it's certainly not the best. It's still a solid comedy, if a bit uneven. Fans (and Anderson/Criterion completists) will need to pick up this 2-Disc DVD, as it's stacked with features and boasts great transfers.
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