The Royal Tenenbaums

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Royal Tenenbaums Movie Poster Image
Quirky extended-family story with dry adult humor.
  • R
  • 2001
  • 109 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 14 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byBestPicture1996 January 7, 2015

Anderson's quirky take on family drama

Though Wes Anderon's filmmaking style may be predictably quirky and quiet, he does find a way to inject his certain type of hipster magic into each of his... Continue reading
Adult Written byhamstergurl09 August 11, 2012

Very Good, Slightly Overrated

Many people consider this to be Wes Anderson's best film, and while it is very good, I don't think it's his BEST. This has Wes Anderson's us... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008

Fine

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. C... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love humor and family tales

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