"The Royal Tenenbaums" is by far one of the smartest dark comedies ever made. Director Wes Anderson is back with his offbeat, oddball style, this time handling the subject of a seriously troubled, disfunctional family. Nearly every main character is played by a well-established actor. All-star casts can sometimes destroy a film, but in this case, every actor fits his or her part so well that you really forget you are watching Gwyneth, the Wilson brothers, and mega-stars like Hackman, Huston, and Glover.
The movie follows the lives of the Tenenbaums. The father, Royal, is a deadbeat whose lack of interest in most of his children's lives has led to a long separation and almost non-existent relationship with them. When Royal and his wife Etheline separate in 1979, Etheline takes charge of the children's lives and education. Each of the three children turns into a prodigy in some way or another. Margot (Paltrow) is a young playwright, Chas (Stiller) is a financial whiz, and Richie (L. Wilson) is a tennis champ. Though each child achieves unimaginable success before the age of 20, in their adult lives they are unable to deal with any ordinary problems. All these problems seem to culminate when Royal abruptly decides he "wants his family back, damn it" and the entire family finds themselves living together for the first time in over 2 decades.
As the story unfolds, the children's and Etheline's lives are shaken up by the scampish Royal. (Etheline's problems are further complicated by the fact that her friend Henry Sherman (Glover) has recently proposed to her.) It seems that Royal's dream is to restore his family, though he naturally goes about it in a very offbeat way. The results are so much fun to watch!
The greatest thing about "The Royal Tenenbaums" is that everything is hilarious, tragic, desperate, and detatched all at the same time. You laughter is often interrupted with the realization that the subject matter really is very sad. However, even if you don't find the Tenenbaums as engaging as I do, it's still worth watching for the performances alone. I especially thought that Hackman, Huston, and Luke Wilson were absolutely amazing. Danny Glover, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray also spice up the film with their supporting roles.
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