Very much a case of innocence lost and then regained: Bottle Rocket started life as a 16mm b/w short, before Hollywood took a half-hearted grip on proceedings. Thankfully, Anderson grabbed back his script (co-written with Owen Wilson) and made the film he wanted to make. The result is a delightfully fresh-faced comedy following the adventures of Anthony and Dignan (the Wilson boys); fresh out of a mental institution and about to begin a 75 year plan, using (dis)organised crime to fund a lifetime of happiness.
Following an opening salvo of minor-league heists comprising of Anthony's parents' home and a bookstore, our bungling pair hit the road, (though it's more a case of 'on the lame' than 'on the lam') eventually ending up at a hotel where Anthony falls for a chambermaid.
For a debut feature, Bottle Rocket is remarkably assured, combining laugh-out-loud humour with moments of romance and regret that never come over as shallow or self-effacing. While I'm sure the criminally short theatrical run proved a disappointment to Anderson, it's pleasing to discover Bottle Rocket works extremely well on video, even when viewed in isolation.
Indeed, the last 30 minutes are really rather splendid as Anthony teams up with his former buddies - an ex team of landscaping gardeners who, led by James Caan, attempt to rule the roost as top crime firm, 'The Lawn ' Wranglers'.