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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 30 June 2007
I expect many will dismiss Anderson's Magnus Opus as one of two things. `Quirky' or `insubstantial'. They are, in no uncertain terms, wrong. Yes the film is offbeat, innovative and original, quirky even, and yes the production design is near saturated with wondrous stylistic flourishes. But, crucially, this is not a case of style obscuring substance. This is style begetting substance. For every Dalmatian mouse, we get a fantastically realised character, for every kitsch tableau, we get a wonderful moment of human interaction. The Royal Tenenbaums is a movie steeped in acute, ingenious, absurd observation. It's a deceptively complicated fable of human loss, grief and redemption, played out with beguiling subtlety by its all star cast.

The screenplay (written by Anderson with long time collaborator Owen Wilson) somehow manages to give each character of the large ensemble cast immeasurable depth . It's a stunning achievement considering the relatively scant screen time each actor gets. When Royal (played by a twinkling Gene Hackman) confronts his estranged wife Ethel (Angelica Houston) , with the news of his imminent death it's a wonderful moment. With approximately eleven lines of dialogue, we are given an astonishing insight into the two characters. A lesser film would struggle to impart so much in its entire running time. Not only is this sequence informative, it is both moving and laugh out loud funny. It's a combination that the film pulls out of the bag often.

Thematically The Royal Tenenbaums is supercharged. The witty banter, and recognisably comic actors conceal very dark undercurrents. Divorce, suicide, drug abuse, incestuous relationships and death all are brought to the fore, thinly veiled by sparkling delivery and a rose tinted camera lens. Surprisingly amongst Stiller, Hackman, Murray and Glover it is actually Luke Wilson who emerges as the films star. It's perhaps his most impressive performance and suggests that he is capable of depths that his brother couldn't dream of. As tragic ex-tennis player Richie Tenenbaum he shoulders most of the film's heavy lifting. It is he who embodies the film's darker subtexts, yet he does so in a way that is entirely affable, warm and affecting. This approach is synonymous with the film as a whole, and those who accuse Anderson of producing a film altogether too cutesy have clearly just not paid enough attention. His amalgamation of offbeat design and darkly comic tragedy makes for a film that is both sparkling and effectively introspective.

Not only is The Royal Tenenbaums armed with an acute, deceptively profound script, and blessed with fantastic performances, it is graced with a soundtrack so perfect one is tempted to break down and weep. The Rolling Stones and The Beatles rub shoulders with Erik Satie and Elliott Smith, whilst The Ramones and The Clash do battle with Bob Dylan and Nick Drake. Like the film it's an eclectic mix, and its possibly the best soundtrack since Pulp Fiction. With so much going for it, it's hard to see how the haters could be so blind. There's not a character who's not endearing, there's not a line that's wasted. Suffused with delightful styling, impeccable comic timing and sumptuous melancholia, the film is wry, glowing, and finally, in its own very particular way, life affirming. See it, then see it again.
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on 3 December 2002
What a wonderful film. Poignant, funny and eccentric, I absolutely loved it. The cast are perfect, delivering finely understated performances without a hint of A-List ego. Gene Hackman is at his finest, but Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson are also tremendous.
It's also worth mentioning the film's soundtrack, as the song choices contribute heavily to the feel of the film. Songs by Nico, Dylan, the Velvet Underground and Nick Drake lend a dreamy timeless quality while certain characters and episodes benefit hugely from the music - Eli Cash and the Clash for instance, or Elliot Smith's Needle in the Hay playing over one pivotal point in the film.
I would recommend this film wholeheartedly to anyone who likes their films a little off centre - if you enjoyed Amelie, say or American Beauty then I think you would love this..
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on 13 October 2005
Royal Tenenbaum is about a story of a man trying to reconcile with his family whom he had left behind. He was once a succesful lawyer and then left with no money and had to return back to his own home as he has no where as to go. The story takes you to each individual tenenbaum and engages you with their lives and personality and the dynamics that exists between them all.
I can see how some people may find it tedious as it is definitely not your bog standard Hollywood film. I find it really clever, well narrated and the characters/actors and actresses played really well. (my fav character is that Indian man who follows Royal everywhere!!) There's always something new and subtle which I seemed to find everytime I watched the film again.
Perhaps it won't appeal to most, but I definitely give it a 5 stars.
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on 13 March 2006
Very unusual semi-psychological comedy drama starring Gene Hackman as an ageing lecherous wealthy father who tries to make peace with his long separated wife (Anjelica Huston) and their three damaged and eccentric adult children (Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson).
Royal Tenenbaums is a thought provoking film which deals with deep issues like incest with sensitivity but is still essentially a life-affirming comedy. Like Amelie, its story is told in a “photo comic book” format, which, with the 70s haircuts on show, make it seem strangely both a period piece and a modern film dealing with contemporary issues. An excellent film with some fine performances.
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on 31 July 2004
Possibly the best director to emerge in the last 10 years, Wes Anderson has developed an unmistakable style with his previous offerings Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. This is continued and even improved on in The Royal Tennenbaums.
There is not a second in the film where you can't admire something, quirky camera work, brilliant music (courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh, Elliot Smith and The Rolling stones to name a few) the gloriously outdated costumes and sets or the near perfect performances from a superb cast. Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Bill Murray dead pan to an almost surreal degree (Murray is a sad eyed genius) with Gene Hackman and Ben Stiller providing the more lively moments as the Scheming Royal Tennenbaum and his workaholic, widower son Chas.
The sense of humour is not for everyone, it's devoid of setpieces, innuendo, gross out humour, jokes or often dialogue. Most of the obvious laughs come from tennenbaum butler Pogoda who is one of the funniest characters in recent memory. The humour is subtle and based around the actors actually acting which is a bit alienating for movie fans who are after Jason Biggs placing his penis into a pie (ho ho ho...penis).
Anderson's attention to detail is stunning and comes across in all of the meticulously constructed characters, thier clothes (that were intended to show they are all trapped in thier hayday of the 1970's) and the grand and somewhat gothic tennenbaum house. Everything is explained through introductions to each character and flashbacks (voiced over by the dulcet tones of Alec Baldwin) this gives the feeling that the characters are almost real and that Anderson and co writer and star Owen Wilson know what they had for breakfast on April 29 1981 and would have told you if they had the time.
The DVD is also heavy on the extra's so there's really no excuse for missing it.
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on 13 January 2003
This is a beautifully made movie which although deep and insightful is also light and refreshing. A tale of family , of yearning long-suffering love , of tolerance and of perseverance , alien concepts in today's society . It is beautifully woven together and realistic although the darker undertones are always present. Stiller ,Paltrow and Wilson bring to life the prodigious Tenenbaum children ,whilst Houston's performance as their committed and determined mother is quite remarkable. However the best performance is undoutable that of the erstwhile roguish father in the form of Hackman , who although usually tends to play these more unprincipled characters still manages to inject something extra to sucessfully carry off the role of Royal . Glover also gives a solid performace . This film surely is one of the best made in years and is therefore highly recommended to not only watch ,but to add to any dvd or video collection.
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on 12 July 2006
If you are looking for a laugh out loud comedy, avoid The Royal Tenenbaums.If you want a film that will delight and suprise for the whole of it's duration, this is for YOU!Its originality and charm kept a smile on my face throughout.

The humour reminded me of the films of Hal Hartley or Whit Stillman. However the films scope and vision has more in common with Orson Welles or Preston Sturges in their prime.

The direction, script, narration and acting all conspire to make this the best film of the decade so far.
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on 17 April 2006
This beautiful and charming film centres on the Tenenbaum Family, whose three children were all outstanding prodigies in their different fields, but who have encountered failure and unhappiness in their adult lives. Circumstances conspire to bring all five members of the family back under the same roof for the first time in many years, and the unresolved emotional issues between them play out over the course of the film. This might sound a bit depressing and sombre, but the film genuinely is a comedy, and is suffused with Wes Anderson's unique warmth and wry wit.
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on 15 April 2008
I first saw this film as a sixteen year old on a family outing to the cinema not having heard of Anderson or the film itself. Family outings not being a regular thing at all for me it is extremely coincidental/fortunate/fateful that we should have seen together that night what I now regard as the most moving and funniest films about family relationships I have ever seen (On a par with the Sopranos for me).

From the opening scenes with an instrumental Hey Jude the film put a smile on my face introducing the delightful unashamedly quirky characters.
The ensemble cast really shines with no one actor trying to steal the show. The attention to detail Anderson shows is immense from costumes to locations (the main house in the film is an actual house redecorated and designed to Anderson's vision) to multiple two second shots (such as Buckley the dog in a cage in the aftermath of a plane crash).

I have friends who don't like this movie and I really can't understand why not. The humour may not be everyone's cup of tea. Arrested Development was hugely influenced by this movie and this is also a huge crowd splitter. I am of the general belief that if you really love something and most people don't get it or like it, then you are right, it is great. Maybe you need an understanding or experience of depression, divorce, rejection, suicide, unrequited love, acceptance, loss, jealousy, regret to relate to the characters but who hasn't experienced some if not all of these things.

Generally if you're a "deep thinker" you will love this film.
Buy it now.
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on 24 July 2013
The description of this film left me unsure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised and rather enjoyed its left-field humour. The basic premise of a dysfunctional family attempting to right some wrongs and restore themselves is of course not new to film-making. But some of the extreme twists and turns of how this particular family go about things is hugely bizarre. Within many families there will be topics that remain out of bounds for various reasons; this family has them in abundance!

Seeing Gene Hackman in a comedy role was unexpected, but he pulled it off with aplomb. I already knew he was a great actor, but this uncharacteristic part further reinforced my admiration. Gwyneth Paltrow also shone very brightly, giving a great turn as a former child prodigy turned nervous wreck adult. Throughout this film there is a succession of events that should generate light chuckles, which build its momentum and carry it along rather well. There are also a couple of mood-changing darker moments which linger in the air, to make you wonder whether laughing was appropriate. A clever ploy. Recommended
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