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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars profoundly silly, and loving
Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums" exists on a knife edge between comedy and sadness. There are big laughs, and then quiet moments when we're touched. Sometimes we grin at the movie's deadpan audacity. The film doesn't want us to feel just one set of emotions. It's the story of a family who at times could have been created by P.G. Wodehouse, and at other times by John...
Published on March 28, 2005 by roger

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Flashflood of cleverness...but waiting for the river
Its brash, fast, squirmingly clever, ultimately empty.

I laughed out loud, once, but failed to connect with a single character, though I tried to root for them all. My guess is that its flaw was its overuse of quirkiness as a substitute for characterization.

On the upshot, its seeming unwieldiness was well-controlled and even playful in parts as it...
Published on December 29, 2012 by JBooks


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting the 'fun' in disfunctional, March 9, 2004
By 
"unbridled_brunette" (Tate, Georgia United States) - See all my reviews
From the very moment it opens (with hilarious scenes of the cast members grooming themselves in various ways) you know that this is not your average film. No, it is not a film everyone will enjoy. The humor, for the most part, is subtle. The characters are quirky and story is more than a little offbeat. It's a special movie and it will take special people to enjoy it. Does that mean you are unintelligent for not enjoying it? No. What it does mean is that you don't appreciate the craft of writing and filmmaking enough to see how special this movie really is.
The sets are unique, unable to be pinned down to any single moment in time (rotary phones occupy the same desk as desktop computers). The wardrobe likewise is something special; each character really expresses himself through what he wears. One character wears the same type of dress, shoes, and hair barrette she wore when she is twelve (trying to recapture her heyday as a young genius, perhaps?). Another character dresses himself and his young sons in matching red Adidas sweatsuits so that they will be able to easily find one another in the event of a disaster. The soundtrack is a superb blending of mid 60s/70s rock (which appears to be the time period this family finds itself locked in.) And the writing...
Dozens of other people have outlined the plot, so I'll not go into it. But the writing is sharp, witty, and more than a little tongue-in-cheek. But this isn't your average comedy, striving solely for cheap laughs. There is depth here as well. You'll find yourself laughing one moment and then, just as quickly, tearing up at a certain character's heartache. The sequence in which a narrator details the early life of the Tenenbaums is especially well done.
And the acting? There is not a single sloppy performance in this movie; even the most minor characters are flawlessly played. And the main actors are excellent. I'm ashamed to say I never thought much of Gwyneth Paltrow as an actress before, but she really proves herself in this film. They are all so wonderful I can't really spotlight one actor as being "the best" but I will say Luke Wilson's character is probably the most loveable. Even though Richie Tenenbaum is a flawed, at times manipulative man, you find yourself rooting for him from the beginning. It makes me wonder why Luke would choose to waste his wonderful talent on such dross as "Old School".
In conclusion, this is not a movie for everyone. But if you like a film with underhanded humor, bittersweet romance, and eccentric characters then you will fall in love with 'The Royal Tenenbaums'. Enjoy!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A movie that captures the love in life., November 24, 2004
By 
Sean Walt (Wilmington, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
I am not going to run through the plot and ruin it but even if I were to I hardly doubt that actually viewing the film would be worthless after hearing all about it. Instead I will simply comment on the movie's serveral strengths, and few weaknesses.

I first must comment on the beautiful direction and script supplied by Wes. The script is something to really admire. It is funny, it is sad, it is the true feeling of life. Wes seems to capture life in his movies as good as some of the best writers of the 20th century with a keen sence of observation and likeness of his viewers. The filmography is simply stunning.

With this being an ensemble film I also have to say that the interwoven storylines are done so brilliantly and not to leave any thing undiscovered, resolved at the film's conclusion. The acting is some of the best I have ever seen from an ensemble cast. No one really produces a unsuccessful performance. I do however think that while I like Ben Stiller's acting for the most part, his almost too dynamic character sort of ruins his role for me on grounds of unbelievablity. Also Glover simply doesn't make an impression on me. He never really does.

That aside, I love the performances of everyone else. To me though, even though Gwen Platrow, Owen Wilson, and Gene Hackman were oscar worthly, Luke Wilson shines way above all the rest. The three best scenes in the film all involve him. My third favorite: when he lets the bird go one last time at the end, my second when he lies in the tent with Platrow and tells her how he has always loved her, and my favorite in the movie and quite possibly in all of film, the scene where he shaves his beard and attempts suicide all while ironically Elliott Smith's masterful 'Needle in the Hay' plays. That scene is so bizarre and so chilling that I hardly can explain its effects on me.

My reason for only 4 stars is that the introduction (the first learning of the characters) is less than spectatular and unfortunately fails to really hold my attention after first veiwing. A solid 4 stars though. No doubt this is sorely underrated.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius script, genius acting, January 15, 2004
Simply put, this movie is just brilliant on every level. From the very first shot of the book being checked out, this is a very special movie. It would be unfair to single out a performance as the best in this rock-solid ensemble cast, but Gene Hackman as patriarch Royal Tenenbaum and Luke Wilson as Richie give the best performances in this movie. When I saw this movie in the theatre with my friend, we were on the floor laughing because of the immediate comedic elements (Danny Glover falling in a rut unexpectedly), but repeated viewings reveal this movie as equal parts drama and comedy, thespian acting and flubbed lines, and genius script and excellent musical track. Watch this movie and be prepared to laugh, cry and have a good time (what a cliche). A future classic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Royal Tenenbaums, March 12, 2005
To be quite honest, there is no underlying plot or storyline, but instead a series of extrememely odd (thus interesting) events intertwined with massive character development. I incredibly admire Wes Anderson for directing this movie in this fashion. The perspective is so simple and yet, accompanied with the characters and unbelievable soundtrack, is so elaborate and captivating. Considering my age (I'm 16), I don't exactly have the money to spend on movies, but I did on this one, and it's 100% worth it if you're looking for a refreshing change from the norm of in-your-face, crude comedies. Plus, I love Criterion DVDs. If you enjoyed this, i'd also recommend Snatch (Get the Superbit Deluxe edition) for its set of interesting characters and unexpected turn of events.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anderson's masterpiece thus far, July 21, 2004
A lot of reviewers would say it's not for "every taste."

I disagree. I think this movie is for every taste, it's just that those who usually aren't used to movies like Tenenbaums should watch it more than once.

I'm a quirky person, so of course this movie struck me the first time viewing it. But although the quirkiness was what drew me into the movie, after viewing it several times later (okay, 30 times), I realized how beautiful of a job Anderson did with writing (along with Owen Wilson) and directing the movie.

You can't just watch this movie just for entertainment. You have to study this movie. Understand what Anderson is trying to convey through the dialogue. It's amazing.

Despite its quirkiness, we can relate to the characters. It's a great character-study movie. The movie is more focused on how the characters progress in the movies rather than how the plot progress, which makes it all the better to enjoy to watch.

This movie is my favorite of all time because of those elements. Not only is it packed in hilarity, it's also packed with great cinematography and it's apparent that Anderson studied classic films closely to inspire him to write and direct so brilliantly.

Many people say that Rushmore is better, but usually when I ask them how many times they've seen Tenenbaums, they usually say only one time. If anyone sees this movie another time, I'm sure they'd begin to realize where I'm coming from about this movie.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Criterion's Blu-ray is pretty freaking glorious, August 14, 2012
This review is from: The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
A fair number of individuals are still gushing over "Moonrise Kingdom." It's bound to make several best of lists by the end of the year even though it seems like we still have so much left to see with unlimited potential. Wes Anderson has always impressed as far as his filmmaking goes. While you wait for "Moonrise Kingdom" to come to Blu-ray, Criterion Collection is getting ready to release "The Royal Tenenbaums" on Blu-ray. Speaking as someone who hadn't seen "The Royal Tenenbaums" previously, it seemed like the perfect chance to finally get around to doing so.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" looks amazing on Blu-ray. Colors flourish and Anderson's visual style only seems to benefit from high definition. That 70s sense of style also seems to jump out quite a bit, but maybe it already did before the jump to Blu-ray. Anderson gives intricate attention to detail like the wallpaper in the hotel or the paintings in Eli's house and it is just exquisite. All of Anderson's films up until "Fantastic Mr. Fox" were rated R, but "The Royal Tenenbaums" seems to have a darker tone in comparison to all of Anderson's other work. The humor is darker and there's such an emphasis on suicide in the middle of the film. In fact, the exchange of dialogue between Chas (Ben Stiller) and Richie (Luke Wilson) is some of the most humorous material in the entire film.

There's always an easy connection or automatic sense of relatability whenever a film revolves around a family suffering from a father who just doesn't care. When you go through something similar, it just speaks to you more than the average person. The way Royal (Gene Hackman) is so manipulative and a pathological liar along with the way he still feels like his family owed him what he thought he deserved felt very familiar. Royal tries to make up for lost time though and even seems to be doing so by the end of the film. It's always rewarding when a film can end the way you wish your life could.

With all of Anderson's trademarks and personal connections aside, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is good but not nearly as great as some of Anderson's other work. Most of the characters felt very similar, which was probably done on purpose since most of them were from the same family and they were all tainted by Royal just not giving a damn about anyone but himself. But none of the performances really pull you in. The quirkiness was there as was Anderson's dry humor; you can't have a Wes Anderson film without either of those. The humor felt somewhat filtered though and wasn't nearly as excessive or as commonly used as much as Anderson is known for. Everyone felt so emotionally withdrawn. It was like something was missing the entire time and once that something was finally on the cusp of being regained the film ended.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" is a must for any Wes Anderson fan and should be an instant buy on Blu-ray for Criterion's reputation alone. Despite an incredible cast, a darker tone, and every great attribute Anderson is known for (cinematography, music, writing, etc), "The Royal Tenenbaums" is an exceptional drama but its comedy just doesn't compare to the likes of "Rushmore" or even "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."

Supplements include the 27-minute With the Filmmaker: Portraits by Albert Maysles featuring Anderson, Interviews with and behind-the-scenes footage of Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Danny Glover (27-minutes total), two deleted scenes, The Peter Bradley Show featuring interviews with additional cast members (over 26-minutes), a Scrapbook featuring young Richie's murals and paintings, still photographs by set photographer James Hamilton, book and magazine covers, and storyboards, Studio 360 radio segment on painter Miguel Calderon along with examples of his work, Trailers, a collectible insert with Eric Anderson's drawings, and an essay by film critic Kent Jones.

The director-approved special edition Blu-ray features a new, restored digital transfer supervised by Wes Anderson with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, Audio commentary by Anderson, and is presented with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Good, So Misunderstood: A Royal Triumph, May 13, 2002
By 
Douglas Miller "mr_dug" (South Bend, Indiana USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a wonderful movie. First and foremost it is Wes Anderson takes full advantage of the medium. He is not concerned with keeping the film real, he is not afraid to place words on the screen to advance the story line, his attention to detail (from the drawings on the walls to the numerous board games in the game closet) is unmatched, and he can write with a dry intelligent wit that is never seen in the current media.
As for the preformances I have nothing but good things to say. Paltrow, Hackman, and the Wilsons give some of the best preformances of their careers. Bill Murray plays a subdued tragi-comic role that proves that he is more than a fromer Saturday Night Live cast member. Danny Glover has never done comedy so well (anyone seen Gone Fishin'). Obviously these actors knew that this was an incredible script and they hoped on for the ride.
This film was very overlooked. But people do not tolerate intelligent comedies (on TV or in the Theatre). But if you are looking for great slapstick just watch the Tennis sequence or Hackman and his grandchildren.
This was by far the best film of 2001 and probably one of the best of all time. I will watch it again and again.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Royal Tennenbaums, image and admission., February 2, 2006
"I've had a rough year, dad". That the most moving moment in the entire film is Chas' moment of recognition and admission is no surprise. Recognition and admission is what this movie is really about.

Perhaps one of the many reasons so many people feel a disconnect between themselves and "The Royal Tennebaums" is that so much of the film's visual fiber is connected with the characters in order to amplify their idiosyncrasies. And these peccadilloes get augmented until they're so grotesque and bizarre that no one feels at ease around them.

It's hard to relate to a guy who wears nothing but a red warm-up suit through most of the movie. It's hard to relate to a character who wears a Bjorn Borg bandana on his head and a grizzly Adams beard until he tries to kill himself. Never mind that he also has a crush on his own sister. And what's the deal with a guy who dresses up like Custer literally crashing a wedding party while wearing Indian paint on his face? And just where the hell are we? Is that New York or Never Land?

"The Royal Tennenbaums", apart from being very sweet and very, very funny, is a subtly uncomfortable movie and it's hard to pin down exactly why that is until you really start to look closely at the characters and what these eccentricities actually mean. That Ebert sees the characters as islands unto themselves is no great feat since that doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. Yes, they are islands, but why are they all like Easter Island?

The reason that they are all like their own version of Easter Island is because they are all hiding something, most of the time from themselves. And the movie is over only when the characters have admitted their problems to themselves and each admission is accompanied by a change in the character's image, thereby turning the bizzaro level down and making them humans to whom we can relate to.

It is not a surprise that when Chas finally admits that he's had a "rough year" he is no longer sporting his warm up suit. With the moment of recognition, a moment of shedding his old skin has also arrived. With the weight goes the image.

But this is late in the movie. Earlier than Chas' admission, Richie confronts himself. That he should be looking in the mirror moments before he tries to kill himself should come as a shock to no one; nor should the fact that he shaves his beard and removes the bandana. This divorcing himself from the image is integral to the movie. The image of the character that has been established as one that has a problem is erased. Admission of the problem (in this case the problem is that he's in love with his own sister) accompanies the change in the visual makeup. Don't believe me? Fast forward to the slowest "member" of the Tennenbaums, the last to confront his own demons - Eli Cash. Why do you suppose the guy who's always dressed as a cowboy appears with Indian paint on his face at the end, moments before he admits his own problems with drugs?

The fact that Michael Medved doesn't see this is merely testimony to his own near sightedness and ineptness. There should be a prerequisite test given to all critics that they should only be allowed to comment on that with which they can converse. Because not understanding something means that they ought to either study it or let it be lest they want to come across as incompetent.

"The Royal Tennenbaums", like all great movies, offers a lot more to discover upon viewing and reviewing. Why does Chas genetically engineer rodents and what does that have to do with his sons? Why is the movie set in such a mysterious locale? What's the deal with the hawk? And why did Margot really lose her finger? Thinking about these tings is endlessly rewarding to me and I hope they will be to you, too. Hopefully the right people will start thinking about this film the way it should be thought about and they can finally elevate it to where it belongs - the pantheon of great films.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic Review, September 20, 2002
I loved this movie. That is simple. The acting was superb. The narration, surprisingly well done. The story was sublimely disfunctional. I loved Royal's feeble attempts to "do the right thing". The camera work was excellent. The characters were so well done by EVERY actor in the case.
I feel strongly. This is one of the best that I have have ever seen in my 29 years. In the genre of Harold and Maude (and, I'm surprised to say, Harold and Maude now sits in second place)... the entire package that is this movie impressed me.
I DON'T recommend this movie for those individuals that are faint-of-heart. I don't recommend it for those who have issues with the concept of suicide or adultery. I DON'T recommend it for those who really thought that the latest Austin Powers movie was the best comedy. I DON'T recommend for those people who thought that Signs was really deep. I'm not slamming those people... I simply don't think that this movie would appeal to them. (Yes, I saw both... I know and like people who saw and enjoyed both... and the bulk of those people did not like Royal Tennenbaums despite my recommendation).
I DO recommend it for those individuals that appreciate a movie that is produced and delivered in a way that is something akin to a great symphony -- great coordination, harmony, dissonance and execution. I was absolutely surprised by the quality of the acting, production and sound (especially since the movie received such mixed reviews).
On a lighter note... it's definitely a movie for people who own cats and not dogs...:-)
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It smiles sweetly, December 22, 2001
Like "Rushmore", it's less sprawling older brother, "The Royal Tenenbaums" enveloped me in a blissful feeling while I was watching it, only to leave me questioning if it was at all substantial once the credits rolled. Come the next morning, for both films, I concluded that they were indeed substantial, and damn near perfect.
"Tenenbaums" tackles two of my favourite cinematic themes: genius and loneliness. Genius, in that the three Tenenbaum children were once prodigies (in business, playwriting, and tennis). Loneliness, in that this genius has alienated them from a world that doesn't understand them. So what do you do when the world spits you out? You go home. The problem here is that home, and the family who lives there, is not nearly as comforting as it needs to be.
Said family is led, mostly in absentia, by Royal Tenenbaum. Gene Hackman plays Royal with buckets of joie de vivre, but also some healthy cynicism. This dichotomy is no better exemplified than in my favourite line from the movie. Royal remarks that the past six days, during which he has been duplicitously reunited with his family, have been some of the best day of his life. The voice-over narrator (a surprisingly effective Alec Baldwin) says, "Immediately after saying that, Royal realized it was true." Royal is a man of charming bigotry and charlatanism. He's a self-described [jerk], but he's desperate, and sometimes desperation breeds genius. In this case, it literally does. Hackman, in what is the film's showiest role, is actually quite spare. Which works well, because the script is so odd that too much energy from its actors would knock it over.
The rest of the cast, following Hackman's lead, is downright laconic. But as above, it works. Gwyneth Paltrow looks sleepy most of the time, owing as much to her heavy eyeliner as to her passive acting. Bill Murray, Danny Glover, and Angelica Huston, all actors who can tear up the screen if they wanted to, are finely subdued here. Most noteworthy is Luke Wilson, who hadn't impressed me up till now with his acting, but I think he does the best job here. He plays Richie Tenenbaum, former tennis ace, and the bridge between Royal and the rest of the family. The scene where they show him breaking down on the tennis court ("he's taken off both shoes, and one sock... it appears that he's crying") is genuinely heartbreaking. Luke, who's always just been just the less talented Wilson brother to me, is still just that. But he's narrowed the gap considerably.
Even though everyone is, not exactly quiet, more restrained and gentle and sad, the movie manages to deliver a surprising amount of belly laughs. Only not where you'd expect them. You have to pay close attention to the details to find the belly laughs. Trust me, though, they're there.
The more talented Wilson brother, Owen, does triple duty here. He not only produces and acts in the movie (this guy has such a strange and addictive rhythm to his acting, I always wish he was on screen more; here he has a small, but integral, role as a literary cowboy with a drug problem), but he also co-wrote the screenplay with director Wes Anderson. And as they did on "Rushmore", these two have nurtured a wonderful script between them. It sets up its story as a literary narrative, signaling scene changes by showing the chapter pages from a biography on the Tenenbaums. It has no use for Hollywood convention, but isn't so avant-garde that a mainstream audience will feel left out. And it takes its time and its own path to get to a very satisfying conclusion.
Anderson, in his role as director, certainly has a distinct and effective visual style. He sets each scene like a wonderful tableau. The actor's face is front and centre in the frame, but he loads up the periphery with so much detail, you could spend a whole viewing of the film examining the furnishings and backgrounds and be just as entertained. Come to think of it, this is a movie that proves the axiom, "God is in the details" (the details again! This must be important). Only Anderson is confidant enough to never have to explain the details. Why do the characters always wearing the same clothes? Why is one of Chas Tenenbaum's (Ben Stiller, in a less than memorable role) sons named Uzi? Why does Eli Cash (Owen Wilson's lifelong neighbour of the Tenenbaums) wear tribal war paint to a wedding? Why is Raleigh St. Claire's (Bill Murray) unrelated young patient omnipresent? I relished these details, mainly because the 'why' of it all doesn't really matter. Some directors would have tried to explain their quirks. Anderson doesn't need to. He prefers life's beautiful, unexplained mysteries. If you can't stand unanswered questions, if you need everything laid out for you in neat little piles, if you abhor human eccentricity, this movie isn't for you.
Anderson also shows that his forte for choosing appropriate music was not a fluke. The soundtrack is strong and effective. From a haunting instrumental of "Hey Jude" which plays over the opening credits, to the playing of a Rolling Stones record in a child's camping tent, which goes from the acid oddness of "She Smiled Sweetly" to the comfortably pop of "Ruby Tuesday", to Mark Mothersbaugh's score (he also did "Rushmore's" score, and once upon a time led Devo) of relentless acoustic guitar noodling, the music is integral, wispy, and perfect.
Well, I'm running out of room here, and I don't feel like I've scratched the surface of how good this movie really is. I didn't even get to talk about Pagoda, or the great visual joke at the end concerning the changing colour of Chas' track suit, or... Actually, that's probably for the better. Because there are so many things here that you deserve to discover for your self. Keep your eyes open wide.
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The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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