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["Bottle Like the cheap pyrotechnic of the title, Bottle Rocket neither goes very far nor ends with a bang, and that's part of its charm, originality and delight. The debut feature of writer/director Wes Anderson and his co-writer/star Owen C. Wilson, Bottle Rocket demonstrates what would happen if Quentin Tarantino wanna-bes (and these days, that would include Tarantino himself) applied their adolescent fantasies of violence, crime, and romance to real life instead of celluloid. The result is a comic gem of weirdness and ineptitude, an antithesis of Heat that is, in its own dorky way, cooler than Pulp Fiction.

The beginning is a little shaky. In a strained and prolonged gag, Anthony (Luke Wilson) agrees to go along with a scheme of his friend Dignan (Luke's brother Owen) to escape from a mental hospital by climbing down bedsheets from his window (the joke is that his psychiatrist has just signed him out and now watches this stunt with weary patience). Dignan, it seems, is a man of big, illegal plans. He has a 50-year schedule set up for himself, Anthony, and Bob (Robert Musgrave), their dim but rich collaborator, that begins with their robbing Anthony's own home and culminates with their teaming up with Mr. Henry (James Caan as a low-rent and more physically menacing Christopher Walken).

The result is a series of earnest and absurd debacles. The high point of the movie is a hilarious safe heist that ends up carried out by the boys dressed in goofy yellow jumpsuits assisted by "veteran" crewmen with names like Applejack and Kumar. With its low-key and note-perfect performances, with the filmmaker's keen eye and ear for the zany and apt detail, and with Anderson's surprisingly sophisticated visual and narrative style (think of Antonioni crossed with Woody Allen of the Take the Money and Run period), Bottle Rocket is a blast. At the Copley Place, the Kendall Square, and the West Newton and in the suburbs.

-- Peter Keough