People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
  DVD Pick: Bottle Rocket
This week saw the release of Wes Anderson’s feature debut, Bottle Rocket, on DVD from the Criterion Collection. Movie buffs know Criterion as the mark of quality when it comes to DVDs (I’ve heard of people buying everything Criterion puts out, whether or not they like the movie or have even seen it, just by virtue of the fact that Criterion made a DVD of it; to me, this is craziness, but whatever blows your hair back), and as much as I was excited just to even be able to buy Bottle Rocket on DVD thanks to Columbia’s bare-bones disc from a few years ago, only now do I really feel like I own Bottle Rocket.

Bottle Rocket is one my all-time favourite movies, hands down. (One of these days I’ll compile an actual list of my favourite movies, if only because I seem to regularly mention movies offhand as being among my favourites, and it may leave the impression among regular readers that I describe every movie I even remotely like that way – that’s not the case, it’s just that I’m crafty and very good at finding excuses to talk about movies I love.) And while I run the risk of coming across like one of those douches who insists he liked the cool new band WAY before anyone else did, I saw Bottle Rocket in a theatre here in Toronto when it was released theatrically in 1996. It wasn’t because I sought out bold new directors at the time (I was in high school, watching The Simpsons religiously, reading comics and playing Dungeons & Dragons), but rather because I saw a small item about it on a pop-culture news show that had a couple of clips and thought it looked pretty funny, so I told some friends about it, discovered it was playing in a local theatre, and 90 minutes later we'd all fallen love with it.

Bottle Rocket follows three bored young men (Robert Musgrave and Owen and Luke Wilson, in their respective film debuts) who decide to become criminals in an attempt to get some excitement out of their lives. They pull off a minor heist (they rob a bookstore) and go on the lam, only to have the bonds of their friendship and partnership tested, particularly when Anthony, the least enthusiastic of the three (Luke Wilson) falls in love with a Paraguayan hotel maid while they’re ostensibly on the run. At some point they meet up with an infamous local thief (James Caan) to pull off another, bigger job, and hilarity, as the cliché goes, ensues. Apparently a lot of Wes Anderson fans don’t like it that much (it’s nowhere near as stylized and “quirky” as his later films), but it’s probably still my favourite film of his. And to this day I still watch it from time to time if I’m feeling down, and it never fails to cheer me up.

The Criterion DVD is, as I expected, pretty wonderful. There’s commentary from Anderson and Owen Wilson (who also co-wrote it with Anderson), and a great little making-of documentary – there’s something special about watching Anderson and the Wilson brothers, now all Hollywood veterans, reflecting on their first movie. Topping it all off is the original 13-minute black and white short that inspired the main film, which, up until now, I’d only seen in grainy form on the web. I love this movie, and I’m incredibly happy that Bottle Rocket now has a worthy DVD.

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