The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Poster

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The perfect balance of drama and comedy
mneilson-29 November 2004
I loved this film.

The Tenenbaum's dysfunction (while amplified for the screen) is quite an accurate portrayal of family life. Families are, essentially, groups of people living in each other's pockets, and, invariably, those people who love you and hate you the most.

Don't get me wrong, Royal and his (thermo)nuclear family of brilliant buffoons do not represent my family (or any other in the world I think!) but the family united against a miscreant father is a motif a lot of people can understand. It is this common humanity that really appeals to me as a film watcher, and what, ultimately made this film so very memorable to me.

The ensemble cast is astonishingly proficient. They all lend a perfect quirkiness to the roles. Anjelica Houston is the perfect former Mrs Royal Tenenbaum, down to the smallest nuance, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson turn in wonderful performances, and this is the only role I've seen Gwenyth Paltrow in where I actually thought she was someone other than Gwenyth Paltrow (this is not an insult, it's just that people don't always do it for everyone, you know...?). Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, all excellent, all the time.

The black comedy counterbalanced with the drama of the issues raised in this film left me feeling like I'd witnessed a film event, rather than just another film. I loved every frame of it, from the Baldwin narrated opening, to the final tying up of ends. It never dwelled on melodrama, or the more potentially unsavoury elements, and it didn't sink into the schmaltzy "We all love each other" end it could well have. It began perfectly, and it ended perfectly.

I can't recommend this movie more highly. It's a must see for anyone who loves quirky and emotive storytelling, great characters and beautiful dialogue.

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It's more than quirky!
FilmOtaku4 October 2004
With 'The Royal Tenenbaums', Wes Anderson turns his lens to the American family, warts and all. The Tenenbaums are a dysfunctional family – the parents have been separated for decades, and Royal (Gene Hackman) is a disbarred attorney who has long since moved out of the family's enormous house (in an unnamed city of course). The children, all geniuses and overachievers in their own way, are then raised by Etheline (Angelica Houston), an archeologist. Chas (Ben Stiller) is a financial wizard, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), is adopted and was a published playwright at 11, and Richie (Luke Wilson) is a tennis prodigy. We are provided the family history at the start of the film, then are introduced to the family 22 years later. Chas is still a financial wizard, but, having lost his wife in a plane accident is now the paranoid father of two small sons. Margot is married to Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray, who is basically Anderson's muse), is depressed and hasn't written in years, and Richie, after having a nervous breakdown on the tennis court a couple of years earlier is traveling the world by boat. Still hanging around is Eli (Owen Wilson) a long-time family friend from across the street who is now a literature professor and successful novelist. Etheline is being wooed by her accountant, Henry (Danny Glover) and when Royal gets wind of this, he embarks on a bid to win his family back after not speaking with them for years.

Wes Anderson has an unusual style of film-making that has been static throughout his career. Highly theatrical, almost in the style of a play, he presents the story of the Tenenbaums to us as if it were taken directly from a book, so much so that if you were to read the few sentences that are visible in the book that accompanies the beginning of each 'chapter', you would see that the written narrative follows the action to the letter. Anderson favors primary colors, and characters that are identifiable by very distinct appearances. Chas and his sons have their red track suits they always wear, Margot wears the clip in her hair, Izod dresses from the 80's and dark eyeliner surrounding her eyes, Richie wears the sweatband around his head, Eli is in cowboy gear and Raleigh looks like a Freud knockoff. One of the results is that there are varying degrees of recognition for the actor in 'real life'. When seeing Raleigh, it's easy to forget that it is Bill Murray, and Margot for that matter is so different from how we are used to seeing Paltrow. Certainly, this is Anderson's intent. Anderson also favors point of view shots, characters looking directly at or addressing the camera, and is also one of the few modern masters in the use of music. The soundtrack to 'The Royal Tenenbaums' features some classic songs (Ruby Tuesday, Hey Jude) but also has some obscure tracks that are bizarre and fit into the scene beautifully.

'The Royal Tenenbaums' has a phenomenal cast, and all of the actors are excellent in the film. I get the strong impression that, since Anderson isn't a mainstream film director, A-list actors sign up to work for him because of his alternative vision and his obvious talent. When I watched this film recently, I asked the two friends I saw it with what they thought, and they both said 'It was quirky'. Since they are both film lovers, I was a little disappointed in this narrow (and obvious) assessment of the film at first. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that they both come from households that have parents who are still together. Coming from a 'broken home' I can relate to the high dysfunction of the Tenenbaums as an adult and embrace the story beyond the presentation, despite its highly stylized format. 'The Royal Tenenbaums' is a brilliant film that is both emotional and eye-catching, and truly cements Wes Anderson as an exciting and talented filmmaker. 9/10

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Thank you Wes Anderson! The film is brilliant!
Karen Divorty27 December 2001
I think if someone tries to watch a Wes Anderson film, they have to have a certain kind mind to understand the real meaning of them. After being awed by the Royal Tenenbaums, I left with a certain kind of joy that only a great film can give me. It's like flying an electric kite, it's that hard of a buzz. As I began my travel down the stairs of the theater, I heard this couple talking about how stupid the movie was, and how they are going to ask for a refund. I suddenly smiled, because I hoped that they would get one. I think that I got something out of the film that they didn't. That inside the frames of the movie I felt like I was in good company and had a understanding for the material that they didn't. What is so good about the Royal Tenenbaums? The great detail in every frame, from the costumes (and they really are costumes)to the design of Chas, Margot, and Richie rooms and the house. This is brilliant film on every level, a delight for the senses and for the mind. This movie makes you think, and without giving too much away there is a lot of surprises that come from the characters dialogue and their past. High kudos go to Luke Wilson, I loved his performance as the suffering Richie. If you loved Rushmore, there is no doubt that you will love this film because it is at par with it, except that its a bit darker in tone. I think its funny that way that people look at film, we each love or hate a film based on our own perception(and mind there are people who just watch film for entertainment). So if you have a complicated mind and you enjoy watching a challenging film, then the Royal Tenenbaums is for you. As for me, I plan on watching it again so I find more things to love about it. Thank you Wes Anderson, so much. You made laugh, you made me smile and I cried. A thousand times, thank you!
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Beauty found in comic places
Rachel (uberpoof)24 January 2005
The Royal Tenenbaums, to put it shortly, is a weird movie. It is the story of a family longing for its heyday to return. It is the story of a man who wants to be accepted. It is a story of redemption, filled with small epiphanies and smaller details that make for excellent viewing. It takes delight in showcasing its brilliant characterizations and depictions of social oddities. Many will find it hard to relate to such strangers and therefore decline to revel in this film's cinematic glory. We can pity them.

Those that enjoy Wes Anderson's films can be put into two categories. There are those that simply find them to be quirky joyrides and laugh them off as such. Then there are those who recognize the loneliness in all of the characters Wes Anderson writes - it is this sense of loneliness that Wes Anderson, as a storyteller, brings to the screen. It is this sense of loneliness that makes Wes Anderson one of the most visionary filmmakers out there today.

The Royal Tenenbaums is an altogether thrilling experience. It is epic, filled with pageantry. Though categorized as a comedy, at times it seems darker then typical black comedies - a drama, or even a triumphant tragedy of life's unrealized outcasts. As Margot Tenenbaum (Gwenyth Paltrow) says in one of the last scenes: "Well, I'm sure he'll get over it." The Royal Tenenbaums is a rejoicing in the human spirit's reluctant but continuous march forward.
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Slow-burning masterpiece
danielsaun27 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film on TV and have never seen a director quite like Wes Anderson displaying his outlook on life so expertly. He and Owen Wilson have created a family beyond dysfunctional. Their underplayed script of various oddballs all with their own tale of despair is as left-field as you'll find, with each character, and I stress this, as pathetic as the next.

Gene Hackman plays the lead role of Royal with huge confidence while Paltrow (Margot), Stiller (Chaz), and Owen and Luke Wilson (Eli and Richie), develop into fully fledged actors in their brilliant well-rounded performances. Anjelica Huston plays the strong matriarchal head of the family and gives the biggest whiff of normalcy from the film with Kumar Pallana, the knife happy friend/butler/colleague at the opposite end of the spectrum. Along with Pallana's inspired creation, comes Anderson's strongest hand - background players. Like the Coens, he truly adores every character and you feel background with each one. Whether it be Danny Glover's sombre turn as Huston's love interest, Royal's colleague and partner in deception or Buckley the dog. They carry the film and keep it fresh.

The script is as above mentioned, slow-burning, letting its characters develop with ease and no constraints. This sits perfectly with Anderson's patient camera, and eye to present the story in a skit-type basis which it very well may be with its spot-on throw away one-liners. When pestered about the nature of his suicide note Richie replies wryly, "Of course it's dark, It's a suicide note."

Its along with these, the acting and Andersons direction that Tenenbaums is promoted from simply a cult or indie classic into something so much more. The slow moments perfectly sober the funnier and give room for rest and perspective. It is also where the film delivers its most touching and poignant moments. The wedding scene is totally destroying and will levels the viewer flat. As with Richie's graphic suicide attempt and Royals ultimate demise in the company of his previously absent son.

I cannot praise this film enough but I have tried.
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Anderson devotees will cherish this one no matter what I say...
Howlin Wolf13 November 2006
... so if you're a confirmed fan, "Tenenbaums" bears the hallmarks of a familiar style. Myself, I don't find it too accessible because his characters all decidedly inhabit their own particular universe. I found "Rushmore" and "The Life Aquatic" to be at the very least 'watchable' (I rate both 6/10... ) but I think the problem I had with TRT is that the two other films I mentioned had 'oddball' characters where you wouldn't expect to find them; a dysfunctional family unit is bound to have its unique members, because that's WHY they're dysfunctional! Family conflict isn't exactly a fresh theme, it's been done many times, so in the end it just felt like an excuse for the Wilsons to gather together their actor mates and get purposefully 'wacky'...

Why not try crafting some characters I can actually relate to, for a change? Anderson's films always seem far too willing to metaphorically pat themselves on the back at the earliest opportunity...
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What's the big deal?
kevdoggy21 July 2002
Like Anderson's previous work "Rushmore", "Tenenbaums" got tons of hype, and raves as being "groundbreaking" and "brilliant".

I can't really see what the fuss is about. As a comedy, Tenenbaums simply didn't make me laugh. At all. I didn't even know what I was supposed to laugh at.

As a drama, the story was mildly interesting. The characters were pretty flat, though, and really didn't do anything to make care a bit what happened to them.

Great actors, especially the always great Huston, and Luke Wilson had some moments. Gwenyth Paltrow has depth, but again, in this film her character seemed one-dimensional.

All I can guess, is that like the music of Tenacious D, and the films of Guy Ritchie, the hipsters amongst us have decided that Wes Anderson is cool, and his material is vague enough that these people can claim that there's more going on than actually is.

There isn't. Zoolander is 10 times the comedy this thing is. I'm giving it a 4 to offset the dopes that gave it a 10. 6 is probably more fair.
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Favorite movie, even after several viewings
bumper31410 December 2006
I just finished watching this movie with commentary, and after seeing how much care goes into each scene, I have fallen for the movie all over again.

Even after watching this film 10+ times now, I love it all the more. I have never held this movie as my favorite, but now it has moved into the #1 position after a careful study, and realizing that even 50 more viewings would not unlock all the little treasures hidden within.

You are doing yourself a huge disservice if you don't see this movie, or if you dismiss it after a single viewing. Watch it, again if necessary, and see what you are missing.
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hilariously freaky, yet heartrendingly poignant
ms_jade_li6 September 2004
I've watched The Royal Tennenbaums 3 times so far and just ordered the DVD. How can you beat the cast, the plot, and the humanity of this film?

I dare you to find a better cast than Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the rest of the crew.

The chemistry between them works magic on the screen.

Without giving away too much of the plot, it revolves around the family of Royal Tennenbaum, a lovable rascal whose family hasn't forgiven him for transgressions of the past. When his estranged wife decides she may want to remarry, the games begin -- and oh what fun games they are. You have to laugh.

Emotionally speaking, you will feel like you're riding a roller-coaster with no dead space. If you are into quirky characters, intelligent humor, and aren't afraid to stare painful aspects of human nature eye to eye, you will love The Royal Tennenbaums.
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'Quirky' Seems To Be The Most Popular Word To Describe This
ccthemovieman-124 May 2006
This was a quirky film that surprised me, in that I liked least twice. By the third viewing, I had enough but I got my money's worth out of it. That's what I would recommend with this movie: rent it before considering buying it. It's very different, and you might love but also might hate it.

What it is, simply, is a portrait of a very dysfunctional family and the father trying to re-connect with his kids after a long absence. Gene Hackman is the father, Angelica Huston the mother and the wacko kids - and other assorted strange characters - are played by Ben Stiller, Owen and Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray and Danny Glover.

This is mostly dry, dark humor with some funny lines delivered in deadpan style. Nobody is particularly likable but - with the possible exception of Paltrow's character - are not really unlikeable either. They are just strange.

I enjoyed viewing the house with all its colors. For those who appreciate low-key absurd humor nd some pleasing visuals, you should like this film and I certainly recommend giving it a look.
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uninspired ... where am i supposed to laugh?
Warning: Spoilers
The only spoiler is that this film is rubbish! I rented this on the back of a friend's recommendation, but right now I just want to force him to go through two hours of water torture so he can know just what it feels like.

The only time I laughed during the entire length of the film was when Gene Hackman's character fell into the pool. Hilarious, a 5 year old could have dreamt that one up. It's really quite worrying that so many people in Hollywood are paying hard money to finance this sort of drivel.

Oh look, there's half a dozen alienated kids sitting around and fed up with the world at large. There's also some OK cinematography and scenery, but when the hell does that make a good film? Or at least one that averages 7.6 on the IMDb scale? It is dull, monotonous, and so slow that a Skoda would overtake it. This is clearly a film that belongs to a certain clique of people who consider themselves to have the 'inside joke' when it is readily apparent to most normal people that there is, in fact, no joke.

Frankly on the whole I would have more fun detaching my testicles and selling them on eBay.
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Engaging, ghoulish "Tenenbaums" is comic royalty at its best
SwingBatta18 February 2002
They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky...

Oops, that's the wrong family, isn't it? Oh well, no matter. The Royal Tenenbaums could very well be considered the First Family of Fright for the new millennium. Their utterly twisted and often hilarious exploits bring to mind memories of that other lovably weird clan.

But in terms of the little matter of family harmony, the difference is like oil and water. Neat? Sweet? Petite? The Tenenbaums? No way.

Director Wes Anderson's oddball showpiece opens in 1979. Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman in a performance that is nothing short of amazing), a mustachioed chain smoker like Gomez Addams but nowhere near as attentive a father, is separated from his level-headed wife, Ethel (Anjelica Huston, who, ironically, played the always-cool Morticia in the two "Addams" films). They have three kids: Chas, Richie, and "adopted daughter" Margot.

Royal's blatant lack of interest in his children is the cause of the separation, and he makes no bones about it either. He purposely shoots Chas in the hand with a BB gun and openly criticizes Margot's play, among other things. And his reasoning for the separation? "Well, we made certain sacrifices by having children." Priceless.

After his departure, Ethel takes the children under her wing and they evolve into underage prodigies. Chas is a wealthy banker, Margot a successful playwright, and Richie a tennis pro sporting the nickname "The Baumer."

Disbarred and suddenly kicked out of a hotel room he's occupied for years, Royal, accompanied constantly by his Lurch-like Middle Eastern manservant Pagoda (Kumar Pallana), decides he wants to make amends for his actions by attempting to reunite with his estranged brood...even if it means faking a terminal illness. And that's when this delight of a movie really takes off.

However, things have changed during the 17 years Royal was separated from his family. The children have reached adulthood and are shadows of their former selves. Chas (Ben Stiller), constantly bedecked in red jogging suits - and black for funerals - is a widower with two young boys. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), complete with a Wednesday Addams-style blank glare, is married to a much older man, human study author Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), and she spends six hours a day locked in her bathroom staring listlessly at the TV. Due to a childhood accident, she now has nine and a half fingers. Richie (Luke Wilson), following a humiliating burnout during a televised match, has become a recluse, travelling the world by ship and communicating only through telegrams. Meanwhile, Ethel is engaged to accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), a Teddy bear in a blue suit. Oh, and Richie just happens to be infatuated with his sister Margot.

The well-paced screenplay by Anderson and Owen Wilson (who also has a supporting role as drug-addicted, self-absorbed Western author Eli Cash) does a great job of fleshing out each of the main characters, and as a result, viewers will empathize with some of them, no matter their motives. Although it's not an outright knee-slapping laugh fest, one of "Tenenbaums'" best selling points is its aspect of physical comedy, which actually provides more laughs than the spoken variety and adds to scenes instead of bogging them down, as opposed to random, pointless acts of slapstick that do nothing to advance the plot. The outrageous is turned into the subtle, and the results are hysterical moments such as Cash unexpectedly walking off the set of a talk show, Royal attempting to inject a little delinquency into Chas' straight-arrow boys, plus the funniest moment in the film: Richie's embarrassing swan song on the tennis court. Just imagine, say, Pete Sampras helplessly flinging his racket at his opponent's serve or removing his shoes and socks and sitting forlornly on the ground.

Then there's also a tour of Cash's quarters, complete with a handy stash of marijuana plants, a multitude of adult videos bearing colorful titles such as "Dark and Dirty", and a collection of large, horrid paintings that even Salvador Dali would have considered repulsive.

Throughout the film, nutty covers of books scribed by family members over time randomly pop up and cover the entire screen like wallpaper. In fact, the entire movie is played out much like a book, complete with occasional "chapter introductions" preceding cuts to different scenes. The opening credits are shown in an impossible-to-ignore bold font that nearly usurps the screen.

Although the aforementioned physical comedy is a hoot, the verbal is definitely no slouch. The snappy dialogue is full of witty one-liners, such as Royal's innovative use of adverbs when he describes Chas' late wife as "a terribly attractive woman." When Margot informs Ethel that she's been a smoker for 22 years, Ethel calmly replies, "I think you should quit." It's a no-brainer to say that the acting is through the roof. For such a large cast, there is a striking chemistry among the actors as they become so immersed in their onscreen personalities. In turn, the script is effective at balancing these roles out. Although Hackman is undoubtedly the star of the show, the other family members are given their time in the spotlight, and they are just as memorable as a result.

The execution of the diverse soundtrack helps set the mood for both humorous and foreboding moments, from the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" to film composer Mark Mothersbaugh's inspirational cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." Royal's mischievous outing with Chas' sons is set to Paul Simon's classic "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard," while Elliott Smith's dark "Needle In The Hay" is used effectively in a very disturbing scene. There's also plenty of classical mixed in with the classic rock, including Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" (despite the fact that the movie takes place nowhere near Christmas), and my all-time favorite piece, Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1."

What took some points off the board was the fact that Hackman and Paltrow light up constantly. I despise smoking in movies, but here it's barely significant in the grand scheme of things. "The Royal Tenenbaums" is a terrific film that is easily recommended for those who enjoy quirky, offbeat yet intellectual humor, or for those simply in need of a good laugh...heck, it's great viewing for any warm-blooded human being, for that matter.

Not since the Family Addams has household dysfunction been so much fun. Snap, snap. 9/10
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Maybe I missed something
jsaus6330425 February 2010
Maybe if I was able to sit through the whole movie, it would have gotten better. But, I doubt it. My wife and I sat through about the first 30 minutes and both of us agreed to hit the off button. So many times, I sit through really bad movies and think "It has to get better", but it seldom does. This movie started off so bad that even if it got a lot better, it would still be very bad.

This movie and the reviews here just show how different our tastes are. Either that, or a lot of people think that they see the art in a really bad piece of crap and are such elitists that they have to tell us how brilliant it was. Maybe I should just stick to 6 star movies. Usually they are fun to watch.
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I can't believe it....
nivek_nailgun27 January 2002
How on earth this many people voted this movie above a 5 is completely beyond me. Everyone has a right to their opinion but when I pulled up the ratings on this page for this movie,I was shocked (still am). This pointless movie was total trash not worth the film it was made on. I kept begging my wife to leave the theatre with me about three-quarters of the way through but even though she hated it,wanted to hold on just in case it picked up. It didn't. I was really trying to like this film but every time a story arc would begin,it would either end too soon or just lie flat with no real overall point to ANY of the movie. The talent pool is high-priced and while their acting wasn't bad,they can only do so much with a garbage script. A definite black mark on all of their careers. This is one of the worst movies of all time right next to Scary Movie,Brain Smasher,King of the Kickboxers,Blair Witch Project and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. 1/10
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The Royal Mess
jotix1009 January 2002
I had all the best intentions of enjoying this film, as I have always admired the talent of Wes Anderson. That said, I can only state that as black comedies go, this isn't even beige.

Did anyone tell Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson their screenplay was just plain boring? Mr. Anderson perhaps had something else in mind when he thought about this project. The idea of a dysfunctional family sounds great, but in the treatment of the material on screen, it doesn't materialize. It's about one of the dullest films of the year, in spite of the overblown praise from all critics toward this movie, which does not come up to Mr. Anderson's previous directing efforts.

It's a shame because of all the talent amassed in this picture. The best thing in it is Gene Hackman. He is an actor that's always interesting to watch. His Royal Tenenbaum is not a fully formed character, but I would pay to see Mr. Hackman read from the Yellow Pages any time rather than to see him in a misguided attempt at comedy.

Gwyneth Paltrow character is bo-ring. And so are the brothers Wilson, and Ben Stiller. Angelica Houston is very dignified in her role, but you don't believe for a nanosecond that after what she went through with Royal, she would walk to the altar ever again.

Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, who were so incredible in Rushmore don't have anything to do here. The narrative device is sophomoric at best. So the best advice to all the fans is to wait until it comes out in DVD. Who knows, it might even play better....
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I remember when comedies were suppose to be funny...
JohnnyChill30 December 2001
Having seen and enjoyed 'Bottle Rocket' and 'Rushmore' I was really looking forward to 'The Royal Tenenbaums'. The previews made the picture out to be a comedy.

After seeing 'The Royal Tenenbaums' I can't help thinking to myself 'why is this movie receiving any positive reviews at all? Is it me? Am I missing something?'

I would not even recommend to people that they wait for the video to see this movie. My only recommendation would be; not to see it at all.

The only humour in this movie takes place in the preview.

Bill Murray is wasted as Ms. Paltrow's husband. I couldn't help thinking from his and Gwyneth's expressions that a funeral was about to break out around them.

Ben Stiller has never been unfunnier (I know ‘unfunnier' is not really a word). He seems shorter in this movie (can't blame the director for that I suppose).

The recurring Dalmatian mouse gag is annoying, unfunny, and too obvious.

When the movie focused on the relationship between Danny Glover and Anjelica Huston, it was even more boring than the other boring parts in the movie.

‘Rushmore' and ‘Bottle Rocket' were clever and witty. 'The Royal Tenenbaums' is neither. Are peculiar characters alone funny? Anderson and Wilson seem to think so.

By the end of the movie you really don't care what happens to the characters, you just want to get out of theatre and start warning people not to see this movie.

I know people will disagree with my views regarding this movie, and so be it.

But if you read this and go see the movie, you can't say Johnny Chill didn't try to warn you.
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hogweed-228 December 2001
Only a truly horrible movie would compel me to get online and write a review. Congratulations to this absolutely awful film for inspiring me to do so.

What a waste of celluloid!

This tedious movie, which seems to go on forever, has not one laugh in it, not one single character that anyone could care about, and a story line that would be embarrassing if written by 8 year-olds.

Plain and simply this movie sucks. It is, by far, the single worst film of 2001.

Furthermore, the obvious ploy of selling a sound-track throughout the flick, only further annoyed me.

I almost walked out and in hindsight wish that I had
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Ok, I get it--but it's still awful
JRoberts21 March 2004
I don't hate many movies, but this one comes close.

Only Gene Hackman rescues this from rating a 1. In short, you might like it if you haven't seen many good movies, or if you're not expecting something very interesting.

Simply put, a good cast is truly wasted in this dreadful and boring film, which is full of itself, full of sledgehammer social commentary, and full of all-too-cliched sentimental nastiness which passes for intellect and wit.

And yeah--I do "get it." "It"--the contrived quirkiness, supposedly humorous morbidity and lightweight darkness inherent in the dramatic situation, the irony poured on as delicately and thickly as corn syrup over premixed pancakes--"it" you can't miss if you stay awake during the movie and have been alive past 20!

Yikes! What a simply terrible follow-up to the precocious Rushmore (though can't we all agree now, after Lost in Translation, that even Rushmore owes more to Bill Murray's performance than to Wes Anderson's intermittent genius?).

With the exception of Hackman's scenes misbehaving with his grandchildren--which are absolutely great and all too brief--the whole thing is about as interesting as watching lint. Make that "pretentious lint" :)

In truth, Anderson may be a great director (he certainly hasn't created anything that would put him into my handful of choices yet) and Owen Wilson may be a great actor (ditto handful of great actors), despite his recent career trajectory. But neither of them are accomplished enough writers to pull this comedy of dysfunction off, and it shows all too obviously here.

So is it fair to blame Wilson and Anderson for not being, say, Charlie Kaufman here? Yeah, I think so--they just can't write their way out of this mess--they write into it instead, if you get my drift, without really exploring anything new or interesting.

So while all of the surface marks of literacy are shown again and again in the film(and played up all-too-ostentatiously), they all remain on the surface.

And even a surface comedy or satire would be OK if the film was all farce or signaled its own problems. In the end, though, it asks us to believe that its own meanness is somehow insightful--not parody at all. And that's the final slap across the face to an audience--look how stupid we all are, taking these ciphers seriously! Wink, wink... In fact, nothing resonates here except how embarrassing this will all look in 10 years :)
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Respect different tastes, please
Dr-Bob13 August 2002
I think it's unfortunate that some of those who liked this film imply that anyone who found it a waste of time is a boor, who is only interested in Jim Carrey style films. There are some very off-beat, "arty" films that I enjoy a great deal. This was not one of them, though. To me, it was "okay", but certainly not great. The humor was very subtle. I got most of the "jokes" (or humorous aspects, really, more than jokes) that people have mentioned, but they just weren't all that funny, to me. Maybe I actually sympathized with the characters too much; the humor was overwhelmed by the sadness of their situations.
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The most depressing comedy ever made
ExpendableMan10 August 2007
I still remember the first time I saw The Royal Tenenbaums. Principally, it was the box art that drew me in - Ben Stiller dressed in a red tracksuit with two sons wearing the same clothing? Gene Hackman raising an alcoholic drink with a cheeky smile plastered across his face? Bill Murray? Both the Wilson brothers at the same time? Surely, this would be one of the funniest films of all time, with a cast like that, how could it fail? Well I have to hand it to the art designers and the hype machine because they fooled me completely, as The Royal Tenenbaums turned out to be one of those comedies that is "off-beat," "dark" and "intelligent," but forgets to be "funny." Still, I'm a bit of a glutton for punishment some times so I sat through the entire film and was rewarded for my perseverance with over two hours of utter tedium. Worse, it is so depressing that by the time the credits started rolling, I'd found myself suffering crippling emotional pains from a vast range of personal demons that up until that moment, I wasn't aware I had.

The story consists of Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), patriarch of his clan trying to re-unite the family after years of mistrust and in-fighting. He brings them all together by feigning illness and sets about trying to rekindle family loyalty, while the rest of them try to overcome their particular neuroses. Consequently, pretty much the whole film consists of uninteresting, self-obsessed New Yorkers moping around feeling sorry for themselves. Gwyneth Paltrow's character Margot for instance is depressed because...well, because she is basically. Nigh on every character has but a single facial expression for the entire duration and can you guess what that expression is? It's despair. Agonising, gut-wrenching despair.

In short, this is just about the most over-hyped, self-indulgent piece of hipster rubbish I've ever seen. Hackman possesses his usual charisma but even he is not enough to save this train wreck of a comedy. The first time I saw it I thought it was more depressing than being stuck in a room with a recently-dumped teenage Goth reading poetry aloud. This week I stuck it on again just to see if I was mistaken in that judgement but nope, I was right. If anything it's got more grim with age. Comedies are meant to be funny people!
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Humour for the emotionally handicapped
skut26 October 2005
This was a very memorable film.

Over 4 years have passed since I saw it. And I still remember it. I remember it as the worst film I ever saw.

I saw it at the cinema, alone. I watched intently, I didn't miss a thing. Even when people started getting up to leave, I stayed and maintained my focus. Believe me, it was hard keeping my eyes propped open with matchsticks. But I did it. Maybe it's coz I paid 8pounds and I wanted to get my money's worth. Maybe it's coz I had nothing else to do. Maybe I had faith in the cast and the HYPE. So I stayed. And I waited. I waited for something to happen. And I was still waiting when the credits started rolling.

I was close to suicide as I left the cinema.

You want to laugh? Reading this is gonna give you more laughs than that God-awful sorry pathetic excuse for a movie.

I've been reading reviews by people who enjoyed the film. All I see is praise for the soundtrack, the sets, the "theme". What? Praise for the acting. Who cares about the acting when there is no script? The comments are as meaningless to me as the film. Silly, pretentious, without any genuine substance or feel. Dry and cold and utterly fabricated. No plot, no story. No laughs, no tears, no excitement, no emotions, nothing. The film never connected with me. I feel like I need some sort of umbilical cord to force feed what's so special about this film into me.

I'd love to talk more about this memorable film but.. there's nothing to talk about. You might as well sit in front of a potato and watch it for 2 hours, hoping it'll turn into potato salad or french fries. But no, it just stays a boring fat potato.

I wasted 8pounds and 2 hours of my life on it. I feel completely cheated. Learn from my mistake.
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It never fails to surprise me!
commodusone10 March 2003
After looking at some of the comments on this movie, I wonder if anyone can explain how a film can so universally be panned and praised at the same time. Absurd, now obviously we all see ourselves as having the correct opinion and everyone else is wrong. Im just pleased that Im not the only person who absolutely loathed this film. I see a lot of films and I am confident in my ability to pick up on subtle dark humour but come on this film is just awful. I really do think that sometimes its a case of emperors new clothes, some highbrow critics star saying how wonderfully clever and dark this film is and then when people start agreeing with them they probably snigger behind our backs. I have never left a film early but my god I wanted to in this one, this and unbreakable two lousy films praised across the board and I have no idea why. Take it from me avoid this film at all costs its dull, pointless, self indulgent, unfunny and so goddam slow you just want to shout at the screen for them to wake up.
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love the style but not the family
SnoopyStyle1 December 2015
Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) left his family. Etheline (Anjelica Huston) raised their three children as oddball geniuses. Twenty two years later, their early successes are now old memories. Chas (Ben Stiller) is a death-obsessed widowed father to Ari and Uzi. Richie (Luke Wilson) is a former tennis champ in love with his adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow). Their neighbor childhood friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) is now a successful writer and professor. Margot is married to neurologist Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray). Etheline is asked by her friend Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) to get marry. Royal is broke. After finding out about the proposal, he tries to inject himself into the family by telling them that he's dying.

Director Wes Anderson starts his journey to discover his unique style. I love the visual concept of what he's doing. I don't particularly like the characters or their story. I don't find it funny but I do like the unique style. This is a wacky dysfunctional family that doesn't make me laugh.
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what a load of crap
mattrochman14 May 2006
What on earth is this crap? Was there supposed to be some sort of deep meaning or insight? Was this supposed to be a comedy? The cast was very impressive and I love most things that they do (except for Ben Stiller) and I watch a broad range of cinema from around the world, judging each film on its own merits, not matter the genre or style. But this was utterly pointless and boring junk; and I am amazed that so many people rave on about how good it was. I regard it as a perfect of example of a strong cast failing to produce a good film.

And I am still waiting to see a film with Ben Stiller that I actually like!
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