"The Royal Tenenbaums"
Directed by Wes Anderson.
Written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.
Starring Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Gwyneth
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 12/22/01
In an effort to see 75 films before the year
is out, I have some work to do. So, almost anything goes as I try
to see a film a day until the end of the year.
Tonight, I caught the new Wes Anderson film
"The Royal Tenenbaums" over at the local multiplex, and after
Anderson's previous effort "Rushmore", I was pretty psyched for this
one. It is those expectations plus the actual film itself that
bring this one somewhere between "Rushmore" and Anderson's first
film, "Bottle Rocket."
Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman, in his third
film in three months) is dying...or, so he tells his estranged
family, which includes his wife (Anjelica Huston) and three
children, sporty Richie (Luke Wilson), smarty Chas (Ben Stiller) and
smoker Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow). Royal's dying wish is to spend
more time with the family that he has blown off for much of the last
20 years, and the family isn't too keen on spending time with a man
that no one seems to love anymore. This is how the story goes
through the first half, and the second part of the film deals with
the dramatic elements of a man that is dealing with a family that
has plenty of problems without him.
The strength of this film is clearly its
cinematography; Anderson does a good job of keeping all of his
actors in perfect frame, in perfect lighting, with a picture-perfect
house that serves as the backdrop for much of the film. His
soundtrack is always appropriate for the situation at hand, and his
ridiculously-talented cast seems to fit the part everywhere you
turn. In addition to the principal cast, support from co-writer
Owen Wilson and Danny Glover is very good.
At times, this movie was hilarious. In
fact, I can easily narrow that down to most of the first half of the
film. And, every time that Hackman is on screen. He is great in
this film. And, whether he is being a racist, a bastard, or just a
plain old asshole, it works every time. But, there is a point in
the film where things get decidedly dramatic (you will know the
moment I speak of when you see the film), and personally, that is
where the movie took its downturn for me. I could see that drama
would be coming sooner or later, but the way the film throws it at
you, you are kind of like, "Whoa, partner, slow down here!" Whereas
"Rushmore" got better and better up to a blowout conclusion, "The
Royal Tenenbaums" gets away from its strengths in the last half-hour
(namely, Hackman and Stiller) and delves into a relationship that is
brewing amongst a couple of the lead characters.
Also, the star turn that Murray provided for
"Rushmore" is the opposite of what he provides to "The Royal
Tenenbaums"--much to my friend Mike "Yac" Iacovone's dismay, he is
useless in this film. I don't think I laughed one time when he was
onscreen, and he was often upstaged by a mentally-impaired
teenager. Plus, while Luke Wilson and Paltrow play their parts
well, they are *boring*, so we are left sometimes to see one or the
other go about their business, and we the audience get bored along
with them! I don't know if this was the idea, but the dynamic in
this movie sometimes is non-existent.
I wanted this movie to be better, and it
just wasn't. From talking to my friends Dan and Melissa after
watching it, they were of similar opinion. My suggestion? Go rent
the superior "Rushmore" instead.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard