A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: December 21, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: July 9, 2002
- Cast: Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman
- Director: Wes Anderson
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, sexual references, and mature themes
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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