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Blu-ray Reviews

The Royal Tenenbaums Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 9 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted August 12 2012 - 12:56 PM

Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums is a kind of eccentric family saga that makes it this new millennium’s answer to You Can’t Take It With You. Über-precious with a droll sense of comedy and an extremely dry style, The Royal Tenenbaums, like all of Wes Anderson’s work, is for a moviegoer who values unconventional behavior and oddness for the sake of oddness rather than for a captivating, labyrinthine plot or dynamic action.

The Royal Tenenbaums (Blu-ray)
Directed by Wes Anderson

Studio: Criterion
Year: 2001
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 110 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles:  SDH

Region: A
MSRP: $ 39.95

Release Date: August 14, 2012

Review Date: August 12, 2012

The Film


Having abandoned his family more than two decades ago, Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) finds himself broke and thrown out of the hotel where he’s been living for twenty-two years. With nowhere else to go, he works up an elaborate ruse to pretend to be dying of stomach cancer so he can move back home with wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston). She has recently seen the return to the family home of her three genius children, all of whom have been going through rocky personal problems and seek the solace of the familiar. Scientist and financial wizard Chas (Ben Stiller) has just lost his wife and has returned with his two young sons. Playwright daughter Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a faltering marriage to Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) and a secret affair going with best selling author and drug addict Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Tennis wunderkind Richie (Luke Wilson), secretly in love with his adopted sister Margot, lost interest in sports and life when she married Raleigh. So once Royal sees his family teetering on the brink of an emotional abyss, he hopes he can keep up his cancer masquerade long enough to finally become a parent involved in his children’s lives.

The script by Wes Anderson and co-star Owen Wilson is sparse of plot, and the characters, apart from Hackman’s Royal, the most deadpanned lot you’ve ever seen, are monotonously morose and pathetic. They generate a fair degree of interest and empathy due to the masterful playing by an extremely talented cast of actors, but comic invention is limited to a couple of spirited outings with grandpa Royal (sequences where Anderson’s direction is finally freed from the straight-on, constipated style adopted for most of the movie). The tone is twee and a bit too satisfied with its own pokerfaced approach to storytelling, but those looking for the unique will certainly find it here. The film, of course, morphs into a rather touching drama in its last third as the climax of each character’s journey is reached, and, once again, the acting is what keeps interest alive as the approach to storytelling has otherwise kept the audience at arm’s length for much of the movie.

Gene Hackman’s performance is clearly the lynchpin of the film, a breath of fresh air amid the claustrophobic stuffiness of the house he returns to. Of the three children, Luke Wilson gives the most achingly poignant performance as the conflicted Richie, his love for his sister while not technically incest as they’re not blood related consuming him without mercy. Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Stiller are more one-note and only show additional colors near the end of the movie. Anjelica Huston has one or two decent opportunities to show her stuff as the family matriarch while Danny Glover as her longtime suitor is appealing and deserving of a more fully fleshed-out role. That could also apply to Bill Murray’s Raleigh St. Clair who has far less interesting things to do here than he did in Anderson’s previous film Rushmore. Both Seymour Cassel and Kumar Pallana as Royal’s partners-in-crime get to do some entertaining small bits.

Video Quality


The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb throughout, and color saturation levels are rich but controlled. There are occasions where skin tones take on either an orangey or rosy complexion (the color timing seems a bit orange overall in the early going), but most of the time the skin of the various characters looks realistic. Mostly the film looks as if it had been released yesterday. The film has been divided into 12  chapters.

Audio Quality


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does not put much of the ambiance into the rear channels apart from the music, a selection of pop hits from the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones among others, which does spill into the rears. The spread across the front, however, is quite nice and makes for fine listening. The dialogue has been superbly recorded and has been placed in the center channel.

Special Features


The audio commentary is by director/co-writer Wes Anderson. He matter of factly narrates his memories of making the movie from the two year preparation to filming with a group of actor friends and others with whom he had wanted to work. Not a riveting commentary but one fans of the film will look forward to hearing.

All of the video bonus material is presented in 1080i.

“With the Filmmaker” is a 27-minute documentary produced for the Independent Film Channel by Albert Maysles capturing Wes Anderson during the course of making the movie. We see him inspecting the sets during construction, talking about the story, working on the murals with his brother, planning shots with his cameraman, watching rushes, and shooting scenes with different takes.

There are 27 minutes of interviews with the top-billed stars of the movie. They may be watched separately, or there is a “play all” feature. The actors participating are Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson (the most interesting and illuminating of the interviews), Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Danny Glover.

There are two deleted scenes which are presented together in one 1 ¾-minute montage.

The Peter Bradley Show is a tongue-in-cheek 26 ½-minute interview show featuring five of the minor players (Kumar Pallana is the most important of the actors in this piece) being asked a series of silly questions to gauge their reactions. At one point, the interviewer tells them just to talk about anything they want!

A scrapbook section of the bonus features offers the following material:

  • Color stills showing behind the scenes shots of the cast and crew at work
  • A 4 ½-minute NPR audio featurette on artist Miguel Calderon with samples of his paintings and a step gallery of other work
  • A series of Eric Anderson artwork showing the character of Margot through the movie
  • Storyboards drawn on script pages
  • Eric Anderson murals
  • Covers of books and magazines which appear in the film

There are two theatrical trailers presented in montage fashion which run a total of 4 ¼ minutes.

The set includes two inserts: a folded pamphlet which contains the chapter listings, cast and crew lists, and critic Kent Jones’ write-up on the career of Wes Anderson with a focus on his first three features and a second folded pamphlet which contains a detailed map/layout and artwork of the Tenenbaum characters and home by artist Eric Anderson.

The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Wes Anderson’s goofy but rather touching saga of a family torn apart and revitalizing itself gets a first-rate transition to Blu-ray via this Criterion release of The Royal Tenenbaums. Picture and sound are excellent, and the bonus material carried over from the previous DVD release makes valuable supplementary information for the feature film. Recommended!

Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 13 2012 - 06:33 AM

Thanks Matt.  This is on sale this week at Best Buy for $19.99.  While I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan, this is the one film of his that occassionally gets re-watched.

#3 of 9 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted August 13 2012 - 06:39 AM

Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich /t/322964/the-royal-tenenbaums-blu-ray-review#post_3961617 Thanks Matt.  This is on sale this week at Best Buy for $19.99.  While I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan, this is the one film of his that occassionally gets re-watched.
 Yes, I saw that it was on sale, and I was so glad for fans of the film to be able to pick up this very beautiful Blu-ray copy without having to wait for the next B&N sale.   I did notice this morning that it was in the top ten best sellers on Blu-ray at Amazon.

#4 of 9 OFFLINE   joshEH



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Posted August 13 2012 - 09:12 AM

Fun [personal] factoid: I graduated from the same high school as Gene Hackman (and several other famous celebrities), and have met him two or three times in real life, when he'd visit our mutual hometown of Danville, IL. One of these times was back in late 2000, when he and I both happened to walk into the same restaurant there (he actually remembered my name!), around two days after he'd wrapped shooting on this film in NYC. Being a major Wes Anderson fan, he got me excited for it months before it ever hit theaters. While I think that 3.5/5 is a tad on the lowball-side for a rating of the film as a whole, this was a great review.

"Pablo, please take Chet's corpse into the other room, and then fix Mr. Hallenbeck a drink."

#5 of 9 OFFLINE   rob kilbride

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Posted September 16 2013 - 11:03 AM

Does anyone know if all the bonus features were ported over from the DVD release?

Edited by rob kilbride, September 16 2013 - 12:14 PM.

#6 of 9 OFFLINE   CraigF



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Posted September 18 2013 - 04:24 PM

To be honest I have not directly compared the DVD and BD, like in two separate players and flicking back and forth to see if they're the same. But the covers of both seem to indicate the BD has all the features from the DVD. They are even listed with extremely similar wording and in the same order on both covers.


You didn't ask, but the very decent insert from the DVD is very similar with the BD, just smaller in format (as you probably guessed...). Doesn't look like you'd miss anything if you got rid of the DVD, which is actually a pretty decent DVD IMO.


Disclaimer: my Criterion/Touchstone DVD is the Canadian version. I don't know what that means, because there's no French anywhere on the packaging or discs. I suspect the only diff is the Canadian flag and rating on the slipcover, it's all made/printed in the U.S.A. My BD is the same as sold in the U.S., probably the only "version".

Edited by CraigF, September 18 2013 - 04:27 PM.

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   TravisR


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Posted September 18 2013 - 06:37 PM

I sold off the DVD when I got the Blu-ray but I remember that there's either an easter egg or a menu screen with an outtake of Ben Stiller and sons shaving in the mirror that isn't ported over. Whatever isn't ported over is very minor things like that.

#8 of 9 OFFLINE   rob kilbride

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Posted September 19 2013 - 08:30 PM

Thanks guys. If the easter egg is missing I'll probably just keep the DVD.

#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted July 12 2015 - 05:36 AM

So, if you have been following my adventures, I have recently become a big Wes Anderson fan.


Started with Rushmore and then to Moonrise Kingdom.


Loved both films.  I vowed I would purchase at least one of his titles each month.


Recently picked up The Royal Tanenbaums.  Watched it for the first time this morning.


But before I talk about that viewing...


Just noticed that I own the Criterion DVD release of this film.  It's opened and mostly unwatched.  I remember why....


At some point over the past decade I started watching TRT and turned it off within the first few minutes.  Back then, I had no idea who Wes Anderson was and I bet I couldn't take more than a few minutes of what I had been viewing.


I know this, because as I started watching the Blu-ray this morning, I also felt the urge to turn it off after a few minutes.  It was just...uhm....not grabbing hold of me like the previous Anderson films did.


However....I kept watching....watching....watching.


Slowly, I found myself sucked in.  Started enjoying the characters.  Started chuckling at some of the offbeat situations.  Started appreciating the Wes Anderson I had grown to love.


Very sweet, very amusing film.  Not the kind of film I laughed hard at.  A few chuckles here and there, at most.  What grabbed me was the story and the amount of time that quickly passed from start to finish --- meaning I wasn't the least bored.  The ending was PRICELESS.


Not my favorite Wes Anderson film.  Would rate it third behind the other two I recently watched.


Had this been my first Wes Anderson effort, I would have not made it through the first 10 minutes.  I would guess this is one for those that are accomplished fans of his.


My next effort will be The Fantastic Mr. Fox.   Will be back with my thoughts soon.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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