“The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson
Production Company: Touchstone
Language: English
Length: 110 minutes

  • Special slipcase/box packaging featuring Richard Avedon’s cast photo, plus cover artwork by Eric Anderson
  • Commentary by Wes Anderson
  • With the Filmmaker: Portraits by Albert Maysles, featuring Wes Anderson
  • Exclusive video interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Danny Glover
  • Outtakes
  • The Peter Bradley Show, featuring interviews with additional cast members
  • The Art of the Movie: Young Richie’s murals and paintings, still photographs by set photographer James Hamilton, book and magazine covers, Studio 360 radio segment on painter Miguel Calderón, and storyboards
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Collectible insert including Eric Anderson’s drawings

 “Royal Tenenbaum bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his thirty-fifth year. Over the next decade, he and his wife had three children and then they separated.”

For some reason, of all the young directors to choose to be their ‘favorite son’, Criterion picked Wes Anderson. I’m not a big fan of him, in fact, aside from “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), the only other film of his I’ve seen is “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007). I chose to get “The Royal Tenenbaums” simply because I really like the actors in it.

The film is certainly different, you can say that! When I first watched it, I really don’t think I liked it too much, though. It takes awhile for Anderson to get into the actual story. It takes him nearly a half-an-hour to get into the story after he introduces every single character with a cutesy montage, narrated by Alec Baldwin. You can appreciate what Anderson is trying to do. After all, these people are so set in their own world, to which we need a good introduction, but it really got to me. I had no problem with the rest of the film. I think it has its funny moments and the points Anderson was trying to make got made. However, I’m a firm believer that the best films are the films that just start. Don’t tell me everything about the characters right away. If you make a good film with great characters, like Anderson did, intricate introductory sequences should be useless. The film’s plot itself should teach us everything we need to know about the characters as it happens. I guess that Anderson’s point might have been that the characters in this movie inhibit such a different world that we need to be introduced to them as if we are foreigners entering their self-absorbed world. I think if you really like dark, awkward humor and enjoy emotional roller coasters (“OK, listen, I’m not dying.”) this is definitely a film for you, considering anyone who likes that type of humor must have already seen either this film or Anderson’s others.

Criterion jumped on getting the rights to issue the DVD from Touchstone/Disney right away, even before the film was released. (I don’t think Ben Stiller got all dressed up again just so he could film that Easter egg intro on the second disc.) The bonus features are pretty good, although it might feel a little anemic, considering they’re all on a whole separate disc. The best is easily With The Filmmaker, which follows Anderson as he moves around the sets, works in the editing room end, etc. It’s really interesting stuff. There’s also a bizarre feature called The Peter Bradley Show where the same television anchor who interviews Eli Cash in the film sits down with ‘actors’ who played minor roles. The first disc’s only feature is a great commentary with just Anderson and is quite entertaining, actually.     
Anderson’s brother, Eric, did the overall artwork for the package, aside from the standard outer cardboard slip-case. I really like his work and he also did the menus for the second disc, which thankfully includes a stills gallery of the work he did for Richie Tenenbaum’s room.

The Conclusion: I’m still sort of lukewarm about it. I hadn’t seen the film before I bought it and, while I think it is pretty good, I don’t think I would have bought it myself had I seen it before. Even though it is in the Criterion Collection, the retail price is only $20, thankfully. This is also the only release of the film, as Disney never released a single-disc cheapo version. If you really hadn’t heard of Wes Anderson or just didn’t enjoy his other work, you probably should not have a problem skipping this.

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