As I was channel surfing about a decade ago, I came across a movie on the Independent Film Channel that caught my eye. At the time, I had no idea who Owen and Luke Wilson were (no one did, really) only that this funny-looking actor was strutting across the screen with a buzz cut and seemed to always have a plan. My mother and I watched the rest of the movie and loved it and Dignan (Owen Wilson’s character) was the star of the show. As time has shown, “Bottle Rocket” was the movie that put not only Owen and Luke (and older brother, Patrick) Wilson in the public eye, but director Wes Anderson as well. Some might be more familiar with Anderson’s later movies like “Rushmore”, “The Royal Tenenbaums” (which reunited the Wilson’s with Anderson) and “The Life Aquatic.” All four of these films incorporate the quirky, off beat style and humor of the Wilson’s (Owen co-wrote “Bottle Rocket”) and make for some enjoyable time on screen. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s what to expect.
Anthony (Luke Wilson) has just been released from a mental hospital as he suffered a nervous breakdown. Feeling that he really has no direction in life, he teams up with know it all, know-nothing friend and cohort Dignan (Owen Wilson). Dignan’s a dreamer and someone who sees all the angles of the plan but lacks the intelligence to actually pull it all together. He talks of a great scheme to rob a bank and the duo, together with friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) hit the road to make it happen. Along their journey, Anthony becomes infatuated with a hotel maid by the name of Inez (Lumi Cavazos), though the language barrier seems to be an issue. As they run out of money, the trio goes their separate ways and Dignan is still hoping to work with the mysterious Mr. Henry (James Caan), someone who may or may not be the friend that he needs. Will Anthony find happiness with Inez? Will Bob and his brother, Futureman (Patrick Wilson) ever get along and will Dignan ever find the direction he needs in life?
“Bottle Rocket” is a hard movie to describe; it’s so non-linear in format that it’s kind of all over the place. The film is more about self-discovery and the journey than a beginning, middle and end but that’s part of what makes it work. The truth is that there’s a bit of every character in all of us. The part that makes jump from town to town, stealing a car and live in hotels. The part that makes you want to pursue someone who catches your eye and the part that tells you when its time to give up. “Bottle Rocket” may be the least well-known of Wes Anderson’s movies, but like Kevin Smith’s “Clerks”, it might be the most personal. I feel that “The Royal Tenenbaums” is by far the best of the four but there’s no denying that it all began with this little firecracker (of sorts). Recommended.
Video: How does it look?
This is Criterion’s foray into the high definition market and the result is good, but a bit disappointing as well. “Bottle Rocket” is presented in a 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer that looks good but not great. The film was released on DVD about ten years ago and while that transfer was iffy at best, this Blu-ray does improve upon some of the flaws that the earlier DVD had. The main thing that I noticed was the grain in the background scenes that seemed to plague most of the film, then again the movie is about as low budget as they come and I really wasn’t expecting a lot out of the transfer, Blu-ray or not. While I’m glad Criterion is releasing their films in HD, the films are mostly either foreign or low budget, and mixed results are to be expected. Still, this is the best “Bottle Rocket” has ever looked; so for that I’m thankful.
Audio: How does it sound?
Criterion has gone the DTS-Master Audio route in terms of their HD sound choice and I was pleasantly surprised at how good some of the movie actually sounded. Dialogue prevails as the most dominant element here, but there are several musical interludes, mainly a guitar or two, that really sound great. I’m not talking “shake the room” great, but very clear and it really diffuses the sound and makes for some great ambiance. Again, Criterion’s films aren’t the typical Hollywood films that are made for great audio and visual presentations, but I was more than pleased with how good “Bottle Rocket” sounded at times.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray version is being released concurrently with the standard DVD version and the extras are identical. We start out with a commentary by director Wes Anderson and actor/co-writer Owen Wilson. The two give a pretty good track, though some major gaps are present and the two tend to get off the topic at times. Still, considering the star Wilson has become, I think it says a lot that he took the time to pay homage to the film that put him on the map. We also get eleven deleted scenes and an actual “Making of” documentary that isn’t the typical standard fare and is actually full of interesting tidbits about the film. A photo gallery is shown as well as the original “Bottle Rocket”, a 13 minute black and white version of what was to become this movie. There’s also an “anamorphic test” in which a scene was shot in a wider, 2.35:1 aspect ratio but the filmmakers decided to go with 1.85:1 instead which is a shame as I liked the wider screen. Finally we get some production notes in a neat little booklet with some comments by producer James L. Brooks, Martin Scorsese and the ever-present artwork by Ian Dingman.