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Ageing disbarred lawyer Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) wishes to reunite with the family he abandoned 20 years ago. His archaeologist wife Etheline (Angelica Houston), however, and his three highly-strung grown-up kids are still dealing with his abandonment and neglect. They're sceptical, even when he tells them he's dying. His son Chas (Ben Stiller) is a widower with twin boys. Richie (Luke Wilson) is a former tennis champ secretly in love with his adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a Pulitzer Prize winning writer unhappily married to a neurologist (Bill Murray). Together again under the same roof, Royal must mend a life-time of bruised egos and a family fallen from grace.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
"All memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums was subsequently erased by two decades of betrayal, failure and disaster," Alec Baldwin narrates. "Most of this was generally considered to be the father's fault". So begins one of the wackiest films about family you will ever see. Utterly oddball but refreshingly original, it's like a modern-day take on The Addam's Family, or at least The Brady Bunch gone bad. Every disaffected character has their unique kooks, quirks and foibles - but they're all very lovable.

The Royal Tenenbaums springs from the warped mind of director Wes Anderson, who co-wrote the script with Owen Wilson, as he did in Bottle Rocket and Rushmore (Wilson gets a small but humorous role here). In fact, Royal is like an older, opposite version of Rushmore's genius schoolboy Max J Fisher, who struggled with new found adult emotions. In Tenenbaums, Royal struggles to reclaim his innocence. Anderson's film hovers between comedy and pathos, and there are some witty moments indeed, such as Royal's departing lecture to his adolescent kids, and Richie's choke at Wimbledon. At other times the film really stalls, especially in its final act as it struggles for a happy redemption. But it's this air of unpredictability, both in how the film will play out and how the characters will react, that makes The Royal Tenenbaums such an original delight.

Like the film, the DVD is full of quirks and surprises. Disk one has Anderson's very specific commentary; a candid, relaxed, informative commentary, though it does suffer from some blank moments. Disk two holds the key extras. The interactive Scrapbook menu is chock-full of supplements, with a 200 plus photo gallery, a radio segment on artist Michele Calderon, humorous covers of books written by the characters, portraits of Margot, murals, annotated storyboards and a plate-spinning demonstration (?). And if you thought the movie was oddball, check out the 14-minute Peter Bradley Show, in which Bradley parodies a talk show by offering scant interviews with the minor cast members in three different studios. Be warned - if you don't laugh, you'll cry. With the Filmmaker is a behind-the-scenes portrait on Anderson. He looks over the Tenenbaum house, adds some touches to the mural, tries out some camera angles and inspires a mouse to act (???).

Revealing interviews with Hackman, Paltrow, the Wilson brothers, Murray, Glover, Stiller and Huston can be played in one sitting or separately, where Bill Murray accuses Anderson of being attracted to horrible locations, and Huston concedes she's still vague about her character. She's probably not the only one. The last of the features include two cut scenes and two trailers. With the first 30-minute act being one of the most dry and witty you are ever likely to see in film, Tenenbaums struggles to keep that wacky sense of humour and disciplined script in check for the second and third act. But if you're in the mood for something so left of centre it's off the charts - and a DVD package of extras that replicates that tone - then Tenenbaums is the family for you.

Published May 29, 2003

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(US) - 2002

CAST: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, voice of Alec Baldwin.

DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2:40:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Scrapbook, The Peter Bradley Show (featuring Interviews with Additional Cast Members), Trailers, With the Filmmaker Featurette - A Portrait by Albert Maysles, Featuring Wes Anderson, Cut Scenes, Interviews

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 30, 2003.

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