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Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson, Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston
Written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
Directed by Wes Anderson

Trailers: Quicktime (Various Res) - Trailer One | Trailer Two

From the writer/director of semi-cult classics “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore”, Wes Anderson brings his eccentric sensibility with the tale of the Tenenbaums, a remarkably dysfunctional family whose problems are beyond the scope of reasonable therapy. However, despite a very promising start, “The Royal Tenenbaums” dwells a bit too much on its idiosyncrasies, foregoing a satisfying and engaging narrative.

Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston are Royal and Etheline Tenenbaums, a well to do couple with three children, Richie, Margot and Chas. Richie is a highly promising tennis superstar, who has won many junior championships and who will eventually win major nationals. Margot is the adopted daughter, a brooding lass who takes up the pen and paintbrush and receives a fifty thousand dollar grant in the ninth grade. Chas is the young entrepreneur of the family, well versed in litigations, dispositions and repossessions.

Sounds like a rather good family brimming with child prodigies. The Tenenbaums have covered pretty much all the criteria that measure success – sports, arts and finances, however, the thread the holds this family together is rather thin. With the separation of the Royal and Etheline, and with the children peaking at their fields at a disappointingly early age, the Tenenbaums are in a rut.

With years of letdowns, regrets and failures, the older Tenenbaum kids (Richie – Luke Wilson, Margot – Gwyneth Paltrow, Chas – Ben Stiller) and a guilt-stricken Royal find their way back home one way or another trying to mend things between them all.

“The Royal Tenenbaums” would have been great as a short film or if taken part by part instead of a whole. Wes Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson (who also plays the Tenenbaum neighbor kid Eli) successfully creates sympathetic characters, but they erroneously under develop them. The movie was more intrigued with how odd these children were, instead of focusing on their state of fragility, and consequently my sympathies for them wore thin. Yes, I know they were a bit on the stranger side of things, but I didn’t need to be reminded every time. In addition, love stories were introduced, but they felt more strained and forced rather than heartfelt. The relationship and supposed romance between Margot and Richie didn’t really pan out or was fully explored. It seemed more to instill a sense of the bizarre rather than to humanize them.

“Tenenbaums” has a great premise on the onset, but doesn’t quite take off. Halfway through the film, I didn’t feel like it was really going anywhere and has lost its endearing quirkiness. The performances are strong, however, anchored by veterans such as Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover (as one of Etheline’s suitors), and especially Gene Hackman, as the despicable father who never forgets to remind Margot that she’s adopted, who openly favors Ritchie, and who purposely gives Chas an embedded BB gun pellet on his knuckle as a lesson about teamwork.

Anderson has a great knack with the camera and a good sense of storytelling, and I know there better things will come from him.

Just like “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore”, “Tenenbaums” starts out promising, but falters nevertheless (although “Rushmore” came the closest in packing everything together just right). The dark humor, the fancy editing and the all-star cast couldn’t quite salvage this movie from being dysfunctional itself.

Film is Rated R for some language, nudity and drug content. Running time is 103 minutes.

2 1/2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mazzyboi
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