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Overall Rating
4.16

Awesome57.89%
Worth A Look: 22.49%
Average: 7.18%
Pretty Bad: 2.87%
Total Crap: 9.57%

14 reviews, 125 user ratings


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Royal Tenenbaums, The
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"Another melancholy gem from Wes Anderson."
5 stars

In his first three films -- 'Bottle Rocket,' 'Rushmore,' and now 'The Royal Tenenbaums' -- Wes Anderson has created a distinct and consistent world. The lackadaisical suburban thieves of 'Bottle Rocket' might've gone to Rushmore Academy as kids, and Max Fischer as a pre-pubescent playwright might've put his work in competition with the equally precocious Margot Tenenbaum's plays.

There's a buzz of strangeness about Anderson's world; in its way, it's as alien to us -- and as precisely rendered -- as the Middle-earth of The Fellowship of the Ring. This world has its own look and sound, with morosely defiant oldies on the soundtrack underlining the characters' malaise or passion.

Anderson loves overachievers and underachievers -- particularly people who manage to be both at once -- and he's got three of them here: the aforementioned Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), the adopted daughter of the clan, who peaked early as a playwright and now sulks in her tub for hours; Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller), a prodigious financial whiz overprotective of his two sons since the death of his wife; and Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson), a former tennis champ who had a meltdown on the court and thinks he's in love with Margot, but that's okay, since "we're not related by blood." Slippery ethics, but since patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) took every opportunity to remind everyone of Margot's adopted status when introducing her, who can blame Richie?

Royal, the sort of affable bastard right up Hackman's alley, has been estranged from his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and children for years; one day he slinks back into the picture with the news that he's dying. Giving himself six weeks to put things right between himself and his kids, Royal sets up a hospital room in his former house, followed in rapid succession by Chas, Richie, and Margot, who all move back into their old bedrooms, confronted daily with the surroundings of their childhood greatness. Hanging around for good measure is Richie's friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson, who for the third time cowrote the script with Anderson), who "always wanted to be a Tenenbaum" but has settled for being a drug-addled novelist; he zones out during a TV interview, and he defends the failure of his first book with the standard artist's line that it was too archaic for most people to understand.

Tenenbaums unfolds like a storybook tale, but this is Anderson's most loosely plotted endeavor yet. Like Rushmore, it's not so much about its story as about the moods and moments the story makes possible. Here, for instance, is Margot's rumpled neurologist husband Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray, swathed in a foam of beard) tapping sadly on a window to get her attention. Or family financial advisor Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) moving in tentatively to kiss Etheline, while she grins girlishly in anticipation, unearthing old feelings of desire and being desired just as she'd unearthed a human skeleton a few minutes before. Or a confrontation between Chas and Royal in a closet, surrounded by shelves weighed down with ancient board games, underlining the childishness of both men. Or the way all printed material we see in the movie is in the same blocky all-caps Futura font used for the title on the poster art, even the "walk/don't walk" signs and the logos on hospital gowns -- in this universe text is purely utilitarian, and the book covers we see are usually good for a laugh. Or the predictably eclectic soundtrack, wherein the Velvet Underground and the Ramones rub elbows with Mark Mothersbaugh's otherworldly bells and organs and the beautifully apt use of "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas (I have to love a director so obsessed with Peanuts that he made Max Fischer's dad a barber, just like Charlie Brown's dad). Or Robert Yeoman's pristine, rigidly symmetrical widescreen compositions, which give the characters ample space to mope in solitude -- vast dead air on either side of them, and vertically squashed; the horizontal proscenium of the movie becomes an oppressive character in itself.

Sound like a downer? Not really -- or not if you're attuned to Anderson's method of keeping heartbreak at a slight remove. For him, the small moment takes care of the large emotions, and we project the rest. Ben Stiller gives a rather antagonistic performance with the tiniest bits of shading (his reading of a key line near the end brings his character nicely into focus); Gwyneth Paltrow stares at everything as if from beyond the grave, a blonde goth princess who never looks so pained as when she can't help smiling at something. The movie doesn't overflow with false personality; character is in the design, like the lonely-looking yellow tent in the middle of a vast room. Richie sleeps in the tent, listening to the Rolling Stones on the same breed of chunky gray record player we all remember from grade school. Now and then a "dalmatian mouse" -- Chas's invention -- scampers into the frame, as if blotted with memories, or symbolic of memories blotted out. Why, we might ask, did Royal emphasize Margot's adopted status at every opportunity? Why was he ejected from his home (the movie never says)? Is Richie's affection for Margot a case of like-father-like-son? Underneath the film's ornate but terse facade might be a churning tangle of backstories barely hinted at.

Gene Hackman presides over all this like a dissipated King Lear, only he doesn't demand expressions of love from his three children; he'll make do with expressions of non-hatred. The Royal Tenenbaums extends or plays with themes explored in Rushmore: in both, a father looks quizzically at offspring he can't imagine he could have sired, and a protagonist is an immature liar and often dislikable, but somehow, despite himself, lovable. Tenenbaums can also be considered a loose sequel to Rushmore, in that the three past-their-prime wunderkinder could be Max Fischer fifteen years on.

If you didn't float happily in the world of 'Rushmore,' this movie's mix of quirky humor and deadpan anguish won't do it for you (I noted a number of walkouts at the screening I attended). Anderson specializes in gentle bipolar comedy-tragedies: 'Tenenbaums' may be the most depressive movie ever to be painted in shades of red, yellow, and pink.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5670&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/07/07 12:40:33
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User Comments

3/05/15 stanley welles an awesome adult comedy - immaculately written and brilliantly performed 5 stars
3/30/14 PAUL SHORTT QUIRKY, CLEVER COMEDY 3 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* A wonderful dark humor movie. Favorite part "Look at that old grizzley bear" 4 stars
7/04/09 Gristle So fucking empty and utterly boring 1 stars
11/11/08 Brian I'm addicted to this movie. One of the best comedies ever. Hilarious and beautiful. 5 stars
9/03/07 Quigley Well-scripted, well-acted and visually inventive comedy. Hackman should have won an Oscar. 5 stars
2/06/07 nmedina Ive seen it over 100 times and have decide like Eli Cash to be a Tenenbaum. 5 stars
1/09/07 Drew Galletti Extremely well done, though I need to revisit still 3 stars
1/09/07 Tulip O'Hare Completely don't get why this is supposed to be good. I just found it slow and snarky. 2 stars
11/03/06 Bitchflaps I hated Rushmore, but this is excellent. 4 stars
10/12/06 The Hugh Hilarious and Tragic 5 stars
8/11/06 M. Mirliss According to EFC, my film criticism skills are worse than Kelly Palma's...suicide time. 5 stars
4/06/06 Wholy Crapman Wacky, yet believable and lovable characters. Just what Anderson does best 5 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley Hackman is terrific, but Anderson (as ever) keeps us too distant from the characters. 4 stars
1/09/06 sdg sdg boring 1 stars
7/31/05 yuko hilarious, adorable and a little bit of sadness 5 stars
6/14/05 E-FUNK A Beautiful, hilarious, heart-felt film. I didn't think he could top Rushmore, I was wrong. 5 stars
6/08/05 John Aster Habig a movie that looks at the true meaning of family and love 5 stars
5/26/05 Jake Not as good as Rushmore but still very good 4 stars
5/13/05 mitch Kelly Palma can't handle "reel" comedy 5 stars
1/16/05 Abbath Nice, quirky comedy/drama. Well written with great characters. 5 stars
12/30/04 DM Funny, unique and strangely poignant. 4 stars
11/09/04 Chris McElheney the best movie ive ever seen! i love it. 5 stars
11/01/04 erika my name is erika tenenbaum which is preety fnny i thought the movie was just awsome 5 stars
9/12/04 R.W. Welch Has a certain style but mostly played too slow and low key. 3 stars
8/04/04 Stefan Good comedy thats very funny but gladly doesn't laugh at its self if u know what i mean 4 stars
7/30/04 Josh Standlee So sh*tty, it made Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray look bad! 1 stars
7/12/04 Recurring Dream i was very entertained and amused by those great little touches in the background. 4 stars
7/05/04 Erin Great!!! 5 stars
7/02/04 Daveman Gracefully crafted and shot with wonderfully subtle dark humor. 4 stars
6/28/04 Bobby da Squid Wonderful cast, NYC-but-not-NYC, amazing rich, detailed visuals - one of my favs 5 stars
4/26/04 Lord Jiggy A slow build...earns your laughter, respect, and affection. Worth full price. 5 stars
3/27/04 Melissa Gaugert If you like Ben Stiller comedy, you'll love it, like I did! Wacky!! 4 stars
3/24/04 Margie i don't think i got it, cuz i was more creeped out than anything... and i didn't laugh :-( 2 stars
3/17/04 Holly Beeman What can I say? Wes Anderson is the man. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, etc.! 5 stars
3/09/04 Wendranh didn't feel any connection to the characters at all 2 stars
2/26/04 Sean What comedy should aspire to be. One of the best. 5 stars
2/07/04 charlie ace 5 stars
1/30/04 Jack Bourbon Garp-guy wannabes. 3 stars
1/28/04 Tom Brilliant, a rare gem 5 stars
1/27/04 lonesome_whistle A funny, quirky, touching movie 4 stars
1/27/04 Jay This movie was a waste of money and time 1 stars
6/26/03 cochese No one else said it, so I will. "The Royal Piece of Shit" 1 stars
5/13/03 scottyrobotty more funny lines than any movie in the last 10 years. perfect 5 stars
4/21/03 Skankin' inThePit Great movie/acting/directing--Anderson is a favorite along with Richard Kelly in my book 5 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III the reviewer is on crack. SEE THIS MOVIE. 5 stars
2/11/03 Alex Pérez Córdova It´s an excelent movie 5 stars
1/06/03 Karen Great movie! 5 stars
12/16/02 Jimmy Snuka This movie is as awesome as me off the top rope!!! 5 stars
12/09/02 Goofy Maxwell Bitter fruit grows on this family tree. But magnificent Anderson tells such a sweet tale. 4 stars
12/03/02 mr. Pink brilliant! Anderson fulfills his promise that he had with debut Bottle Rocket. Great! 5 stars
12/02/02 Gruther waste of time 2 stars
11/28/02 Zack W. Young A pervesely terrific cast and brilliant writing and direction make this a rare modern gem. 5 stars
11/28/02 Lady who hates romantic comedies The Wilson brothers rock - Gwyneth does not 4 stars
11/04/02 Nerf_Herder Sad, funny, bitersweet and everything in between 5 stars
10/30/02 spacecowboy I really enjoyed this. 5 stars
10/28/02 mike bernotas One thing about this guy's movies.... you can almost feel the season's 5 stars
10/27/02 MarktheShark6 The best family movie ever made. They didn't have to kill poor ol' Buckley, though. 5 stars
9/29/02 royal tenenbaum sweet 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock I think people mistake smart-arse stuff for brilliance 1 stars
9/15/02 Monster W. Kung Competently made and acted, but not very funny at all. 3 stars
8/25/02 Roberto Donati Is Anderson the new american talent? 4 stars
8/07/02 Banky Edwards What a weird and funny movie!!! I really enjoyed it and giggled like a fool throughout! 5 stars
8/05/02 Lexy Z. Bitchin.' 5 stars
8/01/02 Christopher Inspired, wonderful, touching, funny. 5 stars
7/27/02 karen goldstein i didn't laugh once - she was in love with her brother! Yuck!!!! 1 stars
7/23/02 erick prolly fav. of the year, and def. in my top 5, watch its awesome 5 stars
7/16/02 Caiphn Just watched it again, still my favorite movie this year. 5 stars
7/15/02 The Bomb 69 I caught myself laughing at the small, minute points, if you pay attention it will delight 4 stars
7/14/02 Phil M. Aficionado Quirky, funny, and cutting edge. A truly meaningful dark comedy with ACTING 4 stars
7/12/02 Punk_Ass At first I was like WTF?? but it grew on me as the movie progressed. wierd/entertaining 4 stars
6/19/02 Oscar Smart, Funny, and full of substance 5 stars
5/27/02 PeterGibbons Art house? You frat boys are a riot. I wanna do mescaline! 5 stars
5/27/02 Nicole If you like dry humor and pay attention to the detail in the movie, you will enjoy! 4 stars
5/19/02 Chowie pretty good, owen and luke kick arse 4 stars
5/15/02 hbotis@hotmail.com nice, very nice, but not great. Huston is great 4 stars
3/27/02 dsmart American arthouse : odd, not funny, pointless 1 stars
3/23/02 Guy Forssman 0/100 there should be a law against this kind of movies 1 stars
3/19/02 Simeon Briggs Best film of the year 5 stars
3/18/02 Caiphn Worth watching. Excellent review, Collin Souter. 4 stars
3/14/02 Roy Smith Left after 20 minutes - boring and sad. People liked this? 1 stars
3/12/02 spaceworm Want to see it again. Gene's a Machine. 5 stars
3/02/02 Unagiboy The scene with the "Bikers" paintings was classic! 5 stars
3/01/02 Butterbean Hackman was incredible, this movie was entertaining. 4 stars
2/24/02 tforce academic films about neurosis are better than this 1 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Nicely entertaining. Some laughs, too. 4 stars
2/20/02 luda hoe the characters are brilliant, the script is smart, the laughs are genuine. 5 stars
2/19/02 Zach movie of the year, hands down. 5 stars
2/18/02 m i like it more each day that passes. i want to see it again, if only for the paintings. 4 stars
2/17/02 AgentDS Disturbingly entertaining 4 stars
2/17/02 Meryl K. Awesome. Stiller and Hackman are incredible. See the movie, see it right now. 5 stars
2/16/02 Phredrick Dobbs Exquisite 5 stars
2/11/02 Chelley Whom ever doesn't like this film doesn't deserve to live. 5 stars
2/11/02 Jimmy James excellent! quirky and funny 5 stars
2/11/02 Greg Jones By far the best movie of the year. 5 stars
2/06/02 Weeblerelf Intricate, beautiful!! My new favorite!! Just beautiful! 5 stars
2/02/02 dulac76 The guy who wrote this review must have seen an entirely different film than I did. 2 stars
1/28/02 arisa renewed my senses... 5 stars
1/27/02 Artist Freak This movie underwhelmed me immensely. SOme funny bits, but no point that I could see. 2 stars
1/25/02 Slitchard Richmond Insular and precious, but gloriously and sweetly so. Tender and melancholic. 5 stars
1/24/02 Paco Great emotional themes, performances and soundtrack. Far better than the overrated Rushmor 4 stars
1/22/02 The Man Best film since "American Beauty" 5 stars
1/18/02 Mister Char i just didn't see what was so terrific about it, maybe i missed something, good cast though 3 stars
1/15/02 Carly I had really high expectations. Solid, but no Rushmore. 4 stars
1/13/02 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Strange that nearly everyone in this movie has a famous relative? 1 stars
1/11/02 Robert Odd, touching, clever, but in the end, unsatisfying. Not much insight or feeling at the end 4 stars
1/08/02 wintermute Wow. 2002 is already heaps better than 2001. Bring it On! 5 stars
1/06/02 jeffrey flood wondreful wicked satire 5 stars
1/06/02 The Man Superb- great performances. A film with a style to call its own 5 stars
1/05/02 specialK no Rushmore, but had 4(?) alumni. didn't meet expectations 3 stars
1/05/02 raiven an unfunny waste of film, cast and TIME, trying SOOO hard to be eccentric and clever. 1 stars
1/05/02 rue the whirl i predict this will get better with repeated viewings 4 stars
1/04/02 John This isn't just a a movie. It's *film*. This is easily the funniest and best movie so far 5 stars
1/04/02 Superdave Excellent acting, somewhat funny, but no story and very strange, but in a bad way 3 stars
1/03/02 This movie's awsome! Y2k2 I loved this movie, actually I havn't seen it yet, but since Owen's in it, it must be good. 5 stars
1/02/02 jim-bob one hot asian masseuse in it, and one tit-shot. 3 stars
12/31/01 poetchuck An afternoon nap would have been a better use of time 1 stars
12/31/01 Thor-Leo Brilliant, perfectly pitched, almost every scene a jewel. 5 stars
12/30/01 LZ "Interesting..." 4 stars
12/29/01 Jason Fessel This movie rules. It is totally entertaining and funny. It is easy to get absorbed into ch 5 stars
12/23/01 frank i didn't think it was better than RUSHMORE, but it was close. 5 stars
12/19/01 Heather Full of dry humor and great characters, one of the year's best 5 stars
12/16/01 ajay rushmore was great, this is just as good. 5 stars
12/16/01 Emily great 5 stars
12/15/01 Boomshanka Better than Rushmore. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Dec-2001 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Mar-2002




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