The Royal Tenenbaums

Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray, and the voice of Alec Baldwin.
MPAA Rating: R for some language, sexuality/nudity and drug content.

Review by Eugene Kopman <>
January 12, 2002

This is the latest installment from the writing team of Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson and is once again directed by Anderson himself. Since their last cult success, Rushmore, they got an all-star cast, but didn't impress me with the movie.

This film is told by a narrator (Alec Baldwin) and starts off with a prologue describing the family Tenenbaum. We learn that Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) separated from Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) after having three children: Chas, Richie, and the adopted Margot. Etheline made sure that her children grew up geniuses. Chas (Ben Stiller) went into real estate at an early age after inventing and selling Dalmatian mice. Richie (Luke Wilson) became a master tennis player, while his best friend and honorary member of the Tenenbaums, Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), became a writer following the footsteps of Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who was already an established playwright at the age of 9. At the present time they are all nobodies.

After eleven years of not seeing his family, Royal returned to reunite with his children. Claiming he has stomach cancer, he is able to move into the house after losing all his money. Things have changed. Richie is sailing the seas, Margot is married to Dr. Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) and has not written a play in years, and Chas is forced to look after his two sons since the death of his wife. Etheline, on the other hand, is getting married to her accountant, Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). It is now Royal's goal to be re-accepted by his children and his wife.

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson wrote another smart and funny screenplay and filled the roles with very good performances by very good actors. Unfortunately, all of these actors were not directed well. All of the performances were dull with the exception of Hackman who gives a second great comedic and third great overall performance this year (see Heartbreakers and Heist). Everyone else is simply boring. The movie itself was slow -- extremely slow. It took Anderson ten minutes to show a two-minute scene for every scene in the movie.

I will admit, it took me three times to fully appreciate Rushmore; maybe I have to see this again and again to completely understand and like it, but for my first impression: great script, great performance by Hackman, but everything else is too boring.

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The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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