The movie opens with one of the main characters - Anthony - escaping a mental hospital in a plan hatched by his friend Dignan. Just as Anthony lowers his bedsheet rope from the window, his psychiatrist comes in. He sees the rope, asks what's going on. Anthony explains that Dignan didn't understand that his being in the hospital was voluntary and that his departure was approved. "He's just so excited about the escape, I couldn't turn him down. I have to go out this way." The psychiatrist concedes, "Just be quick, because, this... it doesn't look good."

Dignan - who looks like a preppy-slacker version of Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) - is obsessed with becoming a gangster. And apparently Anthony is in on this. Dignan has energy, courage and a plan for his gang's every move - starting with Anthony's escape and running for the next fifty years. It's like he and Anthony had this dream as kids and just never let it go. The extent of their commitment to the dream and the ways in which it is realized make up the rest of the BOTTLE ROCKET.

I want to say more, because it's a funny movie with some hilarious scenes. But I'd really be giving too much away. Imagine if SLACKERS (or, better, LIVING IN OBLIVION) were a heist movie. Those of you who follow Irish politics might see it as RESERVOIR DOGS meets the 1992 British Parliamentary campaign of Dr. Daniel F. O'Kane.

The only faces I recognized were James Caan (as the "criminal mastermind" Mr. Henry) and Lumi Cavazos, the woman who played Tita in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. In BOTTLE ROCKET she plays a motel maid. She's as expressive in this part as in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, and she gets to toy a bit with comedy. (For those of you who are unsure, LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE is not a funny movie.)

In the credits I spotted James L. Brooks as executive producer and Gracie Films (the folks who bring you "The Simpsons") as the film company.

The director, Wes Anderson, co-wrote BOTTLE ROCKET with Owen Wilson - who plays Dignan. Andrew Wilson plays Anthony and I believe he's Owen's brother (though they look nothing alike). I don't know of their previous credits, and in fact I really don't think they have any. The film has the freshness of a first endeavor. The performances are pleasing, the editing is sharp, the music good. When the message turns serious, it comes across on cool intuitive level. Nicely done. I hope they have a second.

BOTTLE ROCKET is a perfect title for this film. It's fun, with a bang big enough to make you notice, yet do no major damage.

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copyright 1995-1998 Michael J. Doyle