Royal's Screwups

Wes Anderson's film is like its characters: flawed genius

Upon leaving the film, a friend suggested, kindly, that The Royal Tenenbaums be seen as nothing more than a great pop song--a three-minute smile spread over two hours. That observation is no real surprise: As in Rushmore, Anderson loads his soundtrack with choice nuggets by Nick Drake, the Rolling Stones, Nico, the Clash and, finally, two selections from the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which he's wanted to use since Bottle Rocket. (Sadly, the soundtrack this time around feels too pat, easy shorthand intended to fill in the copious blanks.) And you do want to cheer its ambitions, because The Royal Tenenbaums possesses its moments of sheer delight and surprise--Owen Wilson's performance, for instance, or the flashback to Margot's discovery of her real parents in Indiana. But as a movie, it's little more than a remarkable New Yorker short story--easy to pick up, easy to put down.

A dysfunctional family portrait, or: Does this look like a picture of failure to you?
A dysfunctional family portrait, or: Does this look like a picture of failure to you?

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