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What a 'Royal' Bore

Wes Anderson's third feature proves to be still a dull display of the director's talents

I am a big fan of Wes Anderson. I'm a big fan of Gene Hackman. I'm a big fan of Angelica Huston. Hell, I'm a fan of pretty much everyone in this ensemble (except for you, Gwyneth Paltrow) and crew (especially you, Robert Yeoman; you're one of our greatest living cinematographers). Which is why I was so disappointed by what a bore this movie was. Movies about dysfunctional families are a dime-a-dozen. Ben Stiller was even in a much better one almost two decades later, with Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017). The elements are almost all here to make this work: the distinctive Wes Anderson-style cinematography, the vibrant and contrasting color palette, the eclectic characters. That last element is where this film fails. No one here is given a relatable trait that can help us care about them, beyond the shared baseline motive of "Our dad was a d*** to us, so we don't want anything to do with him". Beyond their individual specific traits to make them quirky, they don't feel like fleshed-out people. The only character I felt was rich in, well, character, was Royal Tenenbaum, portrayed magnificently by the aforementioned Hackman. He's so slimy and selfish, yet so charismatic and charming, you can't look away from him. Aside from that, The Royal Tenenbaums, in addition to Anderson's debut feature Bottle Rocket (1996), shows the master still struggling to hone his style and technique into a truly emotionally resonant concoction of originality, before he finally his his stride beginning with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). This does not showcase his talents well. Grade: C-

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