The Royal Tenenbaums is cleverly narrated by Alec Baldwin, who is never actually seen throughout the film. Baldwin gives an all-knowing voice to the story as we watch the family go through a series of dryly humorous escapades, heartwarming moments, and also heartbreaking scenes. The story of the film explains how the three Tenenbaum children all experienced dramatic success in their youths but only to encounter disappointment, failure, and heartbreak in their adolescent and adult lives. Part of the downward spiral begins in their teenage years when their father decides to leave the family.
This film is a quintessential Wes Anderson film in that is depicts great tragedy with great humor, thus making for a rather dark comedic tone. Throughout the movie we get a glimpse of the small joys that all the characters have such as Margot’s hidden cigarette smoking, Chas and sons’ matching red running suits, and Richie’s love of headbands. Throughout the film, we get a sense of the great camaraderie that the Tenenbaum family has, even with Royal years later.
As the story progresses, each of the Tenenbaum children return home, to live with Etheline. Eventually, Royal returns to the home as well, with the ever-present Pagoda, played hilariously by Kumar Pallana. Interestingly enough, Pallana was once an employee in Anderson’s favorite coffee shop and has since worked with him in almost all of his films. We get a glimpse of the sketchy Royal, as he tries to take advantage of his family, telling them that he is dying of cancer when he is really just broke.
As we watch The Royal Tenenbaums we can see many different idiosyncrasies that make a film truly a Wes Anderson film. For example, Anderson always makes a reference to the Peanuts in his films. In this particular film, Margot’s theme song throughout the film is actually “Christmastime is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Additionally, Chas’ dog Buckley is a beagle, which is a direct tribute to Snoopy, to which Anderson attests in the DVD commentary. Additionally, like Anderson’s previous films, there is an underwater shot. Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998) both feature an in-camera speed change at the end of the film, which is also present in The Royal Tenenbaums.
The ensemble case of The Royal Tenenbaums is partially what makes the film so great and entertaining to watch. However, it is extremely well-written and has an offbeat sense of humor. We get to see Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, and Bill Murray in supporting roles, which in truth, help make the movie. Not only was this film well received by critics and the public, it was also the recipient of several accolades. Hackman was nominated and won the Golden Globe for his acting. Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson were also nominated for the Best Screenplay Academy Award.