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THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS (R)
Touchstone Pictures
Official Site
Director: Wes Anderson
Producers: Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel and Scott Rudin
Written by: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
Cast: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover

Rating: out of 5


The New York Times had it right in their early coverage of THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS—Wes Anderson is already a master director and only 31. The large cardboard placards strategically placed at every theater housing TENENBAUMS proclaim Anderson’s takeover of the indie scene and luckily early audiences agree. Anderson’s third feature seems to be heading toward critical and indie scene success, the same as his first two films (BOTTLE ROCKET and RUSHMORE).

TENENBAUMS follows the story of a very dysfunctional, very eccentric family. Royal Tenenbaum (Hackman) is a conman who was booted out of the family when his children were quite young. Etheline (Huston) is a sturdy matriarch, raising her three children alone and always putting herself aside. Chas (Stiller) started his first business in the sixth grade, breeding Dalmatian mice, and hopes his two sons will follow in his footsteps. Margot (Paltrow) was adopted at age two and since she was old enough to write, has been a playwright—a very, very sullen playwright. Richie (Luke Wilson), the sports prodigy of the family, has been a champion tennis player since the third grade. Twenty or so years after the Tenenbaum children’s prodigious childhoods, our story begins.

Due to Royal’s “illness,” the family is thrust back into the same house where they grew up. Of course, nothing short of mayhem and hilarity follow. What makes THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS different is the sentimentality of the story, which can be found in Anderson’s other films, but to a lesser extent. Anderson and his writing partner, Owen Wilson, have matured into more adult storytellers, weaving comedy with drama and family issues into a movie truly about “the ties that bind.”

As good as their writing has become, TENENBAUMS would be nothing if not for the great acting of an all-star cast. Paltrow, coming off an interesting choice in SHALLOW HAL, is wonderful as the depressed Margot, always hovering in the background, but rarely saying a word. Few actresses would consider playing a character constantly clad in too much eye makeup and a ratty fur coat, but Paltrow shows why they should. The ever-impressive Hackman also pulls off another wonderful portrayal. Hackman’s Royal is the key to holding the Tenenbaum family together, but he is also what’s tearing them apart. Somehow, Hackman makes him loveable.

Aside from the improved writing and the topnotch acting, Anderson’s directing skills will be the most talked about aspect of TENENBAUMS. As well they should be. Watch a Wes Anderson film and you’re definitely watching a Wes Anderson film, something not to be said for many current directors. He creates a distinct mood for the world of each film—each set of characters has a specific set of rules, as does the setting around them. And in each film, characters operating outside of that set of rules tend to disrupt things (e.g., Owen Wilson’s Eli Cash, who constantly causes the Tenenbaums grief). Anderson’s creation of esoteric bubbles has gotten progressively stronger and with TENENBAUMS, he has mastered the technique, creating one of the most unique and tightly bound families in cinema.

Wes Anderson had already made his mark on film, but with the release of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, he has sealed his place in the hall of fame. Expect more great stories to be told by this Texan.

—Jennifer Prestigiacomo

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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