Bottle Rocket

Wes Anderson’s first feature film, Bottle Rocket, was the little movie that could. It was shot on a shoestring, scorned by preview audiences, and — the biggest slap in the face for the young indie filmmakers — rejected by the Sundance Film Festival. Still, the quirky crime-caper comedy about three friends (Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, and Robert Musgrave) planning small-time stickups earned a few dedicated fans and snuck onto the year-end ten-best lists of some critics. Not bad for a film in which one of the biggest laughs comes when the Wilson brothers, about to knock over a bookstore, attempt to disguise their faces with a strip of tape on the bridge of their noses. Now, 12 years after its initial release, Criterion has lovingly packaged Bottle Rocket in a two-disc set that includes deleted scenes, storyboards, a making-of featurette, the original black-and-white short made as a student project, and a commentary by Anderson and Owen Wilson. For longtime cheerleaders of the film, it’s a joy to rediscover the pleasures of Bottle Rocket in this sharp, vibrant transfer: Dignan’s stealthy signal (“ca-CAW! ca-CAW!”), the naive glee of planning the first robbery (“key ingredients: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers”), the notebook filled with the 75-year-plan (“Step 1. Remain flexible. Step 2. Don’t be too derogatory.”), and the climax, which features one of the most earnestly bungled heists in movie history. What shines through most, however, is the way this movie lays the bedrock for Anderson’s career path (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited), reminding us how the frames of his films are held together by the bonds of family, friendship, and sincerity.