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BigSPEEGS Goes to the Movies
The Royal Tenenbaums

BigSPEEGS rates this film:



Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have defined a style in their films. The formula is simple: take a few glum characters, plop them in front of a camera, stick in a quirky romance and let them loose. This has gained the duo many admirers, but IM not one of them. Their films aren't depressing, just uninteresting and unpleasant. And after enduring the highly overrated "Rushmore", it's high time this formula worked.

Gene Hackman is Royal Tenenbaum, a man bent on getting his family back after learning his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), who he never officially divorced, was with another man (Danny Glover as Henry Sherman). The Tenenbaum children are Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Richie (Luke Wilson). Chas is a financial consultant of some sort with two children. Margot is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright who has always been known as the "adopted daughter". She doesn't communicate often with her husband Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), and is having an affair with her childhood friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Richie is a retired pro tennis player who has fallen in love with his sister. One day, Royal confronts Etheline and (in one of the funniest confessionals i've seen in a while) tells her he's dying. Is he? Of course not, but he wants his family back. Due to one thing or another, they all move in under one roof, and from there sparks fly.

I had a wonderful time at "The Royal Tenenbaums". Anderson and Wilson have taken their normal formula and gave it a personal touch, resulting in a funny, honest effort. Unlike its morbid predecessor, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is warm and loves it's characters. The Tenenbaums are a family that has already achieved their goals in life and are now stuck with nowhere to go. They can only go back and catch what they missed: the feeling of really being a family, of caring for each other. Royal is making an honest effort to do this, but the only way he can try and gain his family's respect is to try to fake his own death. His "fresh start" is represented through Chas's two sons, who see Royal through a new pair of eyes.

Oh yeah, and it's funny, too. "The Royal Tenenbaums" is full of fresh jokes and has ITS share of pratfalls, but it's in the characters that much of the humor lies. Pagoda (Kumar Pallana), Royal's friend and a doorman for the Tenenbaums, is played down perfectly so that when he explodes, you'll be laughing so hard you'll be begging for air. And Royal is a terrible actor; trying to convince his family he is dying of stomach cancer while he is out jumping into pools, driving go-carts and eating cheeseburgers. "Tenenbaums" revels in these kinds of ironic switch-arounds, giving the audience plenty to enjoy.

The ensemble cast of "Tenenbaums" works nearly perfectly, with each other and in and of themselves. Gene Hackman's performance as Royal is pitch-perfect; giving Royal the edge he needs to win his family and the viewer over. The rest of the cast is exceptional as well, including Gwyneth Paltrow looking a lot like Christina Ricci, Owen Wilson doing a stoner and Anjelica Huston exquisitely handling her role as the woman caught up in the middle of it all. Some characters became a chore to watch after a short while. I was completely under whelmed with Bill Murray's Raleigh St. Clair. St. Clair is such a flat, empty character that there was no way I could sympathize with him when Margo ran away with another man. There's a difference between understated and soulless, and unfortunately, Murray does what he did for "Rushmore" and walks on the latter half of the spectrum (Billy Bob Thornton's performance in "The Man Who Wasn't There" is a good example of a well handled quiet performance). Also, what was the purpose of St. Clair's patient? Is his presence alone supposed to be funny? I wasn't laughing.

Warts and all, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is a family affair brought to you buy those who specialize in gloom. However, what separates "Tenenbaums" is how lovingly pieced together it is, with its characters kicking away from "depressed mode" and actually developing. With a smart screenplay, (for the most part) wonderful acting and a touch of warmth, you can't go wrong with "Tenenbaums".



Gene Hackman .... Royal Tenenbaum
Anjelica Huston .... Etheline Tenenbaum
Ben Stiller .... Chas Tenenbaum
Gwyneth Paltrow .... Margot Helen Tenenbaum
Luke Wilson .... Richie Tenenbaum
Owen Wilson .... Eli Cash
Danny Glover .... Henry Sherman
Bill Murray .... Raleigh St. Clair
Seymour Cassel .... Dusty
Kumar Pallana .... Pagoda
Alec Baldwin .... Narrator
Grant Rosenmeyer .... Ari Tenenbaum
Jonah Meyerson .... Uzi Tenenbaum
Amadeo Turturro .... Young Richie Tenenbaum
Stephen Lea Sheppard .... Dudley Heinsbergen

Running Time: 109 minutes

"The Royal Tenenbaums" is rated R for some language, sexuality/nudity and drug content.

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