The Royal Tenenbaums



Quirky extended-family story with dry adult humor.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: July 14, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A portrait of a very dysfunctional extended family, but it shows they care about each other deeply as well. The three Tenenbaum children are pushed to succeed at an early age and suffer in adulthood because of it.

Positive role models

Royal lies about having a terminal illness in order to see his family. Margot, Richie, and Chas are self-destructive. However, the family is still supportive of one another in their own way.


Graphic and bloody attempted suicide. One character loses a finger. A dog gets hit by a car. One friend stabs another. The death of a spouse/mother in a plane crash is mentioned.


Sexual references, including adultery and technical incest (adopted siblings). A picture of a nude woman is shown. A woman grabs another woman's bare breast in a brief flashback scene showing Margot's past love affairs. Kissing.


"F--k," "s--t," and everything in between.


Fast food takeout, Gypsy Cab Co.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke. One character is addicted to drugs and drives recklessly while high, another has been smoking secretly since she was a tween.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has very mature material including a graphic and bloody suicide attempt, sexual references and situations (adultery and a possible romance between adopted siblings), and painful issues of betrayal and deception. There are references to a tragic death. An adopted child is made to feel like an outsider. A character has a serious drug abuse problem. Some people may find the light-hearted treatment of these issues offensive and kids will probably miss the dry humor completely.

What's the story?

Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Anjelica Huston) had three children, all of whom were so prodigiously accomplished while still in grade school that they were the subject of books, including one by their mother. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a playwright, Richie (Luke Wilson) was a tennis champion, and Chas (Ben Stiller) was a financial wizard. But as adults, they have reverted to childhood, and either can't or won't perform anymore. One by one, they return home, moving into their old bedrooms. And then Royal, long estranged from the family, tells Etheline that he, too, wants to come home, to make his peace with the family before he dies of cancer.

Is it any good?


Just about everything is a little off-kilter in this quirky story about a wildly dysfunctional family. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS takes place in a whacked-out fantasy version of Baltimore, where hotels employ uniformed elevator operators, decrepit taxis literally labeled "Gypsy Cab" show up whenever someone needs to go somewhere and there is a YMCA on "375th Street." The production design is brilliant, especially the house (the children's bedrooms are magnificent) and the hotel.

Director Wes Anderson and actor Owen Wilson (who plays the Tenenbaum's neighbor, Eli) wrote the screenplay, and like their previous collaborations, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, this movie defies categorization, combining elements of satire, fantasy, comedy, tragedy, farce, and drama. That's a combination that will make some audiences uncomfortable, but will seem to others to be the best possible way -- maybe the only way -- to truly convey a story of family conflict. The result is messy, even outrageous, but reflecting a singularity of vision that is welcome in a mainstream studio film starring three Oscar-winners.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether this wild exaggeration of family communication problems can be of help to families who are struggling to connect to each other. How can parents stimulate and support gifted children without making them feel isolated from friends and family?

  • Eli says to Royal "I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum," and Royal

  • responds, "So did I." What does that mean?

  • Why did such accomplished

  • children become such fragile adults?

  • Why did Chas react to his wife's

  • death by becoming obsessed with safety?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 21, 2001
DVD release date:July 9, 2002
Cast:Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman
Director:Wes Anderson
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, sexual references, and mature themes

This review of The Royal Tenenbaums was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008


Rushmore is better.
Teen, 16 years old Written bypfflyer56 April 9, 2008

'Common Sense' left out a few details

I enjoyed it very much. There were no brandnames, which added humor to the film--the taxi service was called gypsy taxi co., the bus service was green line. Common Sense did not mention the poster of the fully nude woman the chain of clips with shirtless woman exchanging homosexual kisses. Otherwise, this film was excellent.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008
Amazing movie if you enjoy subtle, dark humor. Not for everybody, but I loved it.


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