'Tenenbaums' is randomly bizarre #x2026;; and very cool

By Kat Grande

'The Royal Tenenbaums'-- R

The age of dysfunctional families may seem to be at its peak lately. Or maybe in teen-yielding families everything seems problematic. However, to be considered a truly dysfunctional family, certain boundaries must be passed. In "The Royal Tenenbaums," boundaries may as well be cracks in the sidewalk.

The Tenenbaum family was never quite normal. After Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Houston) has two sons and adopts a daughter, her husband Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) leaves the family. Etheline then devotes her life to the education and well-being of her children. Her work is not wasted: Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) becomes a financial genius; Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) morphs into a prize-winning playwright, and Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson), a pro tennis player. All of the children hit their peaks before puberty even has a chance to shake hands with them.


As the children grew up, they seemed to grow out of their brilliant talents. Each secluding him/herself from the world, the Tenenbaum adults find other things to do. Chas preoccupies himself with protecting his two sons from anything having the potential to be dangerous. Margot mopes around in the bathtub all day, and Richie wanders the world on a cruise ship for months at a time.

Then -- gasp -- the impossible happens. All the Tenenbaums finds themselves once again in their childhood home after hearing the news that their father ailing. Royal claims he wants to set things right before he "passes on," but most of his children are less than enthusiastic about the spontaneous reunion.

Ah, but spontaneity is the true genius of the movie! Every ounce of text appearing on the screen is in the distinctively 1950s-ish font. Every item of clothing worn by the family is a bright somewhat 1970s style. Random artwork appears on the walls. The details paired with a bizarre plot make for a visually appealing movie.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" is not a movie packed full of forced jokes; it is not full of overdone gags. The funniness just ... happens. Listen for the staggered laughter in the theater during this one -- different people will find different situations and characters hilarious.

For example, Bill Murray appears much too briefly as Margot's much-older neurologist husband. His blank facial expression and emotionless voice are more than amusing to me. Little character details such as these make "The Royal Tenenbaums" an intelligently decent flick.

Of course, a collection of able actors is necessary to create a movie based on such bizarre characteristics. The impressive cast leads to the assumption that they all did lovely jobs ... which is true, for the most part. Gene Hackman stood out as Royal Tenenbaum. His ability to be a selfish and greedy man, yet have a strange lovability and humor is great. Owen Wilson as a Tenenbaum wannabe and neighbor also does a superb job as a coked-up cowboy.

Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow did not impress me too much; all her character does is frown and make occasional moody comments. Danny Glover pops in for a great appearance, and Ben Stiller's screen time is used wisely as well.

The well-functioning brains behind these wild characters belong to director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore") and Owen Wilson, who teamed up to create the undomesticated script. Initially, the movie appears to be a funny little dysfunctional family story. But there also are concepts about failure and forgiving and love and fun, deep stuff like that. The great thing about the concepts is that they're presented in very stealthy way; not dramatically obvious and not in a ridiculously joking manner. Hooray to the director for achieving this happy medium!


The music compilation fits perfectly with the bizarre visual perception and includes a harpsichord version of "Hey Jude," to hallucinogenic version of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday."

Not everyone will like this movie. The reactions most likely will be quite divided. If you enjoy comedies that are strictly comedic and designed for laughter, "Tenenbaums" is a bit different from the stereotype. If intelligent and random humor a la "Rushmore" appeals to you, see "The Royal Tenenbaums." MOVIE GRADE: A-

Kat Grande is a senior at Rochester John Marshall High School. To respond to reviews in Sound &; Vision, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903-6118 or send e-mail.

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