A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)

A little whimsy goes a long way, but too much is a bad thing if it turns terminally twee. The unique sensibility of Wes Anderson has kept it going for 20 years now, culminating in the best picture and best director nominations for The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2012). Though Bottle Rocket was a box office flop, it was an auspicious debut for Anderson, as well as for its then-unknown stars, Luke and Owen Wilson. (The latter also co-wrote the screenplay with Anderson.) Bottle Rocket inevitably became a cult film, building on what seems like a sly parody of Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) mixed with a bit of Coen brothers tongue-in-cheekery. All that it lacks is Bill Murray -- it's the only Anderson film in which he doesn't appear -- but his special above-it-all manner is aptly supplied in Bottle Rocket by James Caan. Anyone coming to this movie in search of characters with fully fleshed-out backstories -- like, why was Anthony (Luke Wilson) suffering from the "exhaustion" that led him to commit himself to the posh, low-security mental institution from which he "escapes" at the movie's beginning? -- is going to be sadly disappointed. The effect is more shaggy-dog than Reservoir Dogs. It's a film that features among other things, a heist on that least likely of targets, a book store, and probably the most thoroughly planned and ineptly executed robbery ever put on film. It's also one of those movies that are perhaps even funnier when you try to remember them afterward and figure out what the hell you just watched.