The Royal Tenenbaums
Film Length: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.40:1)
You Are Invited To A Remarkable Family Gathering
This is perhaps one of the hardest reviews I
have ever written because as I sit here typing
these words, I still don't quite know if I really
enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums or not.
I have to admit, there were several times during
the first 30 minutes of this movie that I wanted
to turn it off. I was forming letters of apology
to Disney within my head for not reviewing the DVD
they sent me. But remarkably, the more I stayed
with this film, the more I slowly got into the
absurdity of it all.
From Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore) comes the
story of The Tenenbaum family who has inhabited
a beautiful three-story brownstone on the Upper
West Side since their three "genius children,"
Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and
Richie (Luke Wilson) were born approximately 30
years ago. Gene Hackman (in a performance that
is nothing short of amazing), is a mustachioed
chain smoker and unattentive a father who is
separated from his level-headed wife, Ethel
The kids grow up to be very strange in the
Tenenbaum household. One becomes a business
genius, another a famous playwright and the
other a world famous tennis pro. There is
also the boy next door Eli (Owen Wilson), who
forever wants to be a Tenenbaum.
Royal decides late in life that he'd like to
reunite with his family, and therefore concocts
a scheme that results in him moving back home
with the children and ex-wife even though she's
about to remarry, to her longtime accountant
I suppose the reason this film placed on many
of the critic's top 10 lists of last year was
simply because The Royal Tenenbaums is
rich in original, fascinating and hilarious
characters. This stellar cast of actors are
seen in ways you have never before imagined.
Watch Gwyneth Paltrow in a very untypical
role for that may be her best performance yet.
So, I sit here typing these words and wondering
what I really thought of the film. I was captivated
by the highly entertaining visual style of this
film which is told in storybook fashion (narrated
by Alec Baldwin) where almost every frame of the
film looks like something out of a comic book.
Even more impressing was the diverse rock soundtrack
that helps set the mood for both humorous and
How is the transfer?
The overall transfer of this film looks simply
terrific. I was rather amazed at how vivid colors
could get on a transfer like this before becoming
oversaturated. Filled with vibrant yellows and
reds (especially the red jump suits), the color
levels peak higher than most any other movie I
have seen before, yet just barely stay out of the
oversaturation zone. The print is flawless, and
the only problem I had was the smallest evidence
of video noise throughout.
Though this DVD contains an additional DTS 5.1
track, I found it to be completely wasted on a
film that really doesn't make use of it. As I
sat watching this film, I rarely heard any noise
come from the rear channels. In fact, not until
halfway through the film as Hackman and Huston
walk through Central Park, did I heard the very
first sounds of the background city in the rears.
From that point on, it was the few outdoor scenes
that followed that contained hints of ambient noise.
The lack of rear channel output can be easily be
forgiven by the strong and robust front channels
that give off superior stereo separation. The
film's rock soundtrack comes across with such
deep resounding bass that you will find your feet
tapping along in no time.
The Royal Tenenbaums has been released
in a deluxe 2-disc CRITERION edition. As
anyone knows, Criterion sets the standard in
providing superior transfers and supplements in
all their releases. This is no exception.
I must first talk about the packaging. Arriving
in a cardboard slipcase that mimics a book, the
inner plastic housing slips out to reveal a cover
adorned with artwork by Eric Anderson.
Inside the cover you immediately find two small
pamphlets, one of is Kent Jone's insight into
Director Wes Anderson's film, and the other
containing interesting artwork by Eric Anderson
of the Tenenbaum house, which maps out every floor
and room, pointing out the most intricate details
and objects of each.
Disc One contains the movie that contains
both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks.
The film also features a full-length commentary
by writer/director Wes Anderson.
Disc Two houses the bulk of supplemental
features that are divided into eight specific
Let's begin with The Scrapbook
This entire section is devoted to the many
paintings and images found in the film.
Photographer James Hamilton presented a slide
show of for the wrap party of the film. You can't
help but be highly amused by these beautifully
photographed images that show the cast and
filmmakers in some very candid moments.
One of the most absurd and hilarious images
from the film are the paintings that hang in
Eli Cash's apartment. Here, we get a close-up
look at the two paintings by artist Miguel
Calderon. A public radio broadcast is included
for your listening pleasure that explains how
these paintings ended up in the film.
Eric Chase Anderson provided the many portraits
of Richie Tenenbaums's sister, Margot, that
appeared in the film. Using your remote, you can
step through each of these portraits for a closer
Storyboards features excerpts from Wes
Anderson's annoted script pages that you can
thumb through. Smaller televisions may provide
more difficulty reading the script's small print.
A whole area is dedicated to the murals that
adorn the bedroom of Richie Tenenbaum. Detailed
illustrations are provided by Eric Chase Anderson.
The Tenenbaums certainly enjoyed a lot of media
publicity either by the books they wrote, or the
articles that were published about them. This
section shows us all the book and magazine covers
that appear throughout the film.
Two very easy to find EASTER EGGS (boy I love
having these put in plain sight) shows some plate
spinning by Kumar Pallana at the film's wrap party
and Anjelica Huston blowing out a birthday cake
that sets her hair on fire.
The next section is The Peter Bradley Show
Designed as being a farce, this interview never
takes itself too seriously as we are introduced to
actors that have played small parts in Wes Anderson
films. Thought its meant to be a joke, I found
myself skimming through it due to overall boredom.
Much too long for its own good.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)
The next section is dedicated to Trailers
Two of the film's original theatrical trailers
are included. Simply press PLAY and both trailers
play against each other. You cannot individually
select each one you wish to play.
The next section is With The Filmmaker
An excellent documentary (a portrait by Albert
Maysles) that plays as a film diary. Shot with
no narration, we are taken on very candid tours
of the principal set of the Tenenbaum house and
its inner construction; the trainer discussing
how he is going to bring his bird into the shot;
storyboard drawing; Wes Anderson directing Luke
Wilson making an entry into a house window at
night; at the editing consoles; decorating the
walls of Richie's room. This is a fascinating
look at putting the film together, done in a
style that sets the viewer free of any narrative
(length: approx. 26 minutes)
Let us take a look at Cut Scenes
I was surprised with a film of this magnitude,
that there are only two deleted scenes
included. Even more sad is the fact that both
are very short, with the longer cut involving a
dinner scene between Glover and Huston. There
is absolutely nothing of added value here.
Finally, we come to Interviews
Nine personal interviews of the personal cast
that includes Gene Hackman, Gwenyth Paltrow, Bill
Murray and Anjelica Huston can be selected with
your remote by clicking on the corresponding
painting. The actors basically talk about their
individual characters. What is sort of frustrating
here is that each of these interviews contain a
considerable amount of video noise.
As I end this interview, I find myself still
unsure of The Royal Tenenbaums. While I
can truly understand its brilliance, I find it
very difficult to outright recommend this film
to everyone, as it won't be everyone's cup of tea.
At the very least, I must confess that this
movie restores my faith in Hollywood for producing
a film that is totally original, filled with
quirky, offbeat yet intellectual humor. It has
forever burned images in my mind and carried
thoughts with me even days later. That should
give you an encouraging sign that the movie is
growing on me favorably.
Those who have seen this film and enjoyed it,
owe it to themselves to purchase this Criterion
edition that is chock-full of great supplements.
Those who have never seen the film should not
buy it blindly, but rather test the waters first
with a rental.
Release Date: July 9, 2002