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  • Widescreen 2.40:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, French, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Deleted scenes
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The Royal Tenenbaums

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . MA15+ . PAL


Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), estranged patriarch of the Tenenbaum family, has fallen on hard times. Kicked out of the family home 22 years ago by his wife Ethylene (Anjelica Huston) for various indiscretions, Royal has lived the carefree life of a bachelor in an up-market New York hotel. But now, his money exhausted and facing the prospect of impending nuptials between Ethylene and long-time family accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), Royal wants desperately to return to the family fold. And so, faking a terminal illness, Royal ensconces himself back in the Tenenbaum home; joining, as it happens, his three middle-aged children who are all suffering crises of one form or another.

Once upon a time, these three Tenbenbaum children were considered prodigies; each a genius in their chosen field. At the age of 12, young Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) had made his fortune developing a new species of Dalmatian mouse and re-investing the proceeds in the real estate market. At a similar age, the adopted of the three children Margo (Gwyneth Paltrow), was already a celebrated playwright. Meanwhile young Richie (Luke Wilson), whilst cultivating a passion for painting, falcons and Margo, was a world-class tennis player at the age of eight. From the moment Royal left them, however, the lives of the Tenenbaum family, and the children in particular, have been spiraling into decline. Dysfunctional and long-since fallen from grace, the family has slowly come apart at the seams; the children have lost their gifts, and the family unit is all but destroyed. Thrown together again under the one roof after all these years, albeit under false pretences, this may just be the cathartic exercise the family needed to get their collective lives back on track…

"Anyone want to get some cheeseburgers and hit the cemetery?"

The follow-up to their critically acclaimed comedy Rushmore, in The Royal Tenenbaums co-writers Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have crafted yet another imaginative, intelligent and utterly superb film. Darkly funny and yet with an undercurrent of deep melancholy, the film’s Academy-Award nominated script dips and soars with the vacillating fortunes of the Tenenbaum family. Exercising their knack for identifying and drawing out society’s more fringe-relationships, and dysfunctional ones at that (you’ll get no spoilers here!), Anderson and Wilson have again managed to people their film with a bunch of endearing oddballs; characters brought beautifully to life by an ensemble cast. For above all, The Royal Tenenbaums is a character piece; delving into a complex family dynamic that has played both the muse and eventual destruction of the sensitive Tenenbaum children. Overall, the tale is a sad one. But like the very best comedy, this touch of reality helps to ground its flawed yet accessible characters; laying a fertile bed for mirth.

But character-driven comedic drama is only as good as its players, and in typical form Anderson has extracted universally brilliant performances from the ensemble cast. The standout is Gene Hackman who, in a role that was written especially for him, displays his versatility in a titular role that demands both roguish likeability and a large dollop of Hackman f*ck-you. So too Anjelica Huston is wonderful as the long-suffering mother of the family; in many ways the most normal of the Tenenbaums – the straight man as it were - but with a few wry moments lurking up her sleeves. Hidden behind layers of mascara, Gwynth Paltrow gives a wonderful turn (better than she’s ever been) as the detached, brooding Margo, as does Luke Wilson whose fallen tennis star the 'Baumer is one of the film's most tragic figures. Brother Owen Wilson is in typically fine form as the wanna-be Tenenbaum Eli Cash, and Ben Stiller gives us more of his trademark angry-man, although simmering nicely this time around, as a resentful Chas. Capping off this cocktail is Anderson’s trademark visual style and attention to detail. Vivid and constantly off-kilter, the production design, from the telling costumes, makeup and hairstyles of the ensemble, to the beautifully crafted interior of the Tenenbaum house, succeeds in perfectly evoking the Tenenbaum universe; adding layers upon layer of lavish eccentricity to the already beautifully-written characters.


Displaying no hint of the MPEG compression process that produced it, Touchstone’s anamorphic (2.35:1) transfer of The Royal Tenenbaums is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. With most of the action taking place in and around the Tenenbaum family’s New York residence, this impressive location’s lavish production design has provided the image with a wealth of rich colour and an impressive depth of detail that extends into the darkest corners. The murals covering the walls of Richie’s old bedroom, to name but one example, are themselves worthy of closer scrutiny, and the sharp, detailed image provides the viewer with ample opportunity to do so. In general, this impressive level of detail comes without undue aliasing-related artefacts. This said, some quite subtle moire effects can be seen from time to time to inhabit the confines of Margo Tenenbaum’s stock striped red dress - the smallest of prices to pay for, in all other ways, the technical aspects of the transfer are impeccable, and fans of this wonderful film will be overjoyed with the results.


Although furnished with a spanking Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, The Royal Tenenbaums, even more so than Rushmore before it, is a dialogue-centric comedy that makes limited use of all but the front channels. Thankfully the all-important dialogue, dominated as it is by Alec Baldwin’s surprisingly engaging narration, is delivered from the centre channel clearly and distinctly throughout the film. Called upon to deliver a modicum of foley and other standard effects such as car engines, the front-channels support the dialogue without drowning it out. To a much lesser extent, the surround channels are called upon to deliver a limited amount of ambient sound, from the busy streets of New York to bustling hospital corridors, but with the majority of the action taking place within the confines of the Tenenbaum house, opportunities are rare. It is in the film’s subtle, eclectic score that the surround channels are able to stretch their legs, with the tunes – while remaining primarily front-channel affairs - balanced nicely between the front and rear. Overall, however, The Royal Tenenbaums audio presentation is a serviceable yet uninspiring affair; a soundtrack that supports the film as needed, but never needs to distracts the viewer from the film’s real strength – its script and its performances.


A Collector’s Edition worthy of this fine film, Touchstone's release of The Royal Tenenbaums provides, in addition to a disc carrying the feature itself, an additional shiny platter packed to the gunwales with extra material. Although missing a commentary from Wes Anderson, the resulting collection is nonetheless impressive; providing fans with hours of interesting material to pore over.

  • With the Filmmaker: (27:00) A making-of featurette of sorts that, through on-set footage and on-the-spot interviews with Wes Anderson, gives small windows into the preparation of the film and Wes’s specific vision, including some interesting anecdotes, some rehearsal footage, tonnes of set dressing, the viewing of dailies, all kinds of stuff. Largely unstructured, it provides a great insight into Anderson’s filmmaking method and his specific vision for Tenenbaums.

  • Deleted Scenes: Only two scenes that never made the final cut; both welcome exclusions. The dearth of deleted scenes is a real testament to the director’s planning and vision for the film.

  • Interviews: (27:00) Interviews with all major actors, including Gene Hackman, Gwenyth Paltrow, Luke and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Anjelica Huston provide some extra insights into the characters and the way the players approached them, their relationships with the director and their impressions of the film. Representing very interesting viewing, it presents a number of thought-provoking new angles on an already thought-provoking film.

  • Stills: A set of 205 photos (yes 205!) taken by set photographer James Hamilton covering all aspects of the production and each one of the film’s key scenes.

  • Birthday Cake: A 40 second segment in which Anjelica Huston sets her hair ablaze with a birthday cake.

  • Calderon Paintings: Four paintings by artist Miguel Calderon are displayed here, two of which can be seen in Eli Cash’s apartment are shown here, along with an optional commentary by the artist taken and Wes Anderson from a studio-360 radio interview. Apparently Wes bought the first painting Bad Route in a New York gallery especially to use in the film. Bloody interesting stuff, and certainly not your normal DVD extras fodder.

  • Margot: Richie’s 11 portraits of Margo that hang in the Tenenbaum house are actually the work of artist Eric Chase Anderson, and can be seen here in all their simplistic, childlike splendour. Interestingly, each sees Margo reading an important work of fiction.

  • Storyboards: 30 pages of excerpts from Wes Anderson’s annotated script are shown, giving a great impression of how Wes went about breaking down the shots and establishing the visual look of the film.

  • Murals: Detailed images of the murals that cover the walls of Richie’s bedroom (destined to become Royal’s hospital ward) are shown here in beautiful detail. It is almost impossible to catch them during the film itself, given that only some walls are ever shown and others are hidden behind machines that go ping, so it's a real treat to see the entire collection, all 83, included here, documenting most aspects of the Tenenbaum family history.

  • Book Covers: Books play a large part in the story, both as a narrative tool and a central part of the Tenenbaum archetype. Here we see the eight book and magazine covers that were produced for, and take a prominent place in, the final film.

  • Plates: A 30 second snippet in which we see supporting actor Kumar Pilanta displaying his plate-spinning talents.

  • The Peter Bradley Show: A rather boring public broadcasting interview show, I assume hosted by the titular ‘Peter Bradley’, gives us interviews with a number of supporting actors about the three Anderson films Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Peter is big on asking bit players on how they prepare for roles. This guy really is a dick and should never be allowed on television. Maybe it’s all a spoof? Absolutely mind-numbing. Avoid this 15-odd minutes of crap like the plague.

  • Trailers: Two cinema trailers, covering much the same material and collectively lasting around four minutes. Yawn.


Be there no doubt, The Royal Tenenbaums is another brilliant film from a director of unique vision and with a rare talent for comedic storytelling. Surpassing its predecessor Rushmore by leaps and bounds, The Royal Tenenbaums is a warm, moving film imbued with both laugh-out-loud comedy and wonderfully eccentric characters. To those unfamiliar with Anderson's work, I recommend this and previous efforts in the strongest possible terms - you wont be disappointed. For you existing fans of out there, with its perfect transfer and collection of interesting extras, Touchstone's Collector's Edition release of The Royal Tenenbaums will leave you more than satisfied. A true gem.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2635
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      And I quote...
    "Heartwarming and funny, Tenenbaums represents yet more brilliance from a director of unique vision and with a rare talent for comedic storytelling."
    - Gavin Turner
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