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The Royal Tenenbaums [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 110 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: August 14, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

Director Wes Anderson deliberately reveals his hand with the Beatles’ theme that opens the first five minutes of this dysfunctional family saga. We are left with no doubts that this will be a quirky and often bumpy ride for the next couple of hours.  The Royal Tenenbaums covers, in a semi-documentary format with Alec Baldwin voiceovers, the coming of age of three distinctly different siblings and their rather eccentric parents.  As dark humor goes, it is hard to imagine a film that captures the genre much better than this one. The gimmick here is that patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who, for many years has been separated but not divorced from his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), needs to move back into his former home, as he has been evicted from his hotel room.  Using the pretense that he is dying from cancer, Tenenbaum attempts reconciliation with his daughter Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) and sons Chas (Ben Stiller) and Richie (Luke Wilson).  Of note, all three children, once youthful prodigies, Margot the playwright, Chas the financial wizard (and cause for his father’s disbarment), and Richie the tennis champion have fallen on hard times since their parents’ separation. Supporting performances by Etheline’s love interest, accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), the Tenenbaums’ best buddy Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) and Margot’s neurologist husband Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) round out an all-star list.

(Editor’s Note: For a different take, read our The Royal Tenenbaums [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review by Brandon DuHamel)

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Criterion folks have done a brush-up extraordinaire of what was already a good looking film. While not an oldie in cinematic terms, being a 2001 release, the images are crisp and the colors are glorious.  Even better, Robert Yeoman’s cinematography is spot on, giving us the in-your-face encounters that are essential to the film’s engagement with its viewers.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack sounds like it was minted yesterday. Director Anderson’s ear for music obviously rubbed off on Devo’s Mark Motherbaugh who offers a superb score, augmented by eclectic classical and pop music selections. The Dolby Digital track is no slouch but is clearly a sonic also-ran.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

Criterion Collection does not disappoint here with some terrific extras:

  • With the Film Maker: Audio Commentary by Wes Anderson and the cast
  • The Peter Bradley Show: Interviews with other cast members
  • Studio 360: radio segment with painter Miguel Calderon
  • Trailers
  • Booklets with a Kent Jones essay on this film and a set of Calderon drawings for the film.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Making a film about a family that has ceased to exist as such is not a new concept. The Magnificent Ambersons, Death of a Salesman and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof come immediately to mind.  The Royal Tenenbaums builds on some unusual family issues, not the least of which is the semi-incestuous relationship between adopted daughter Margot and her brother Richie, and raises them to another level with magnificent performances by Hackman and his supporting cast. Family dissolution films can be a difficult watch for some viewers since, at face value, they often convey very negative takes on domestic life. In the case of The Royal Tenenbaums, however, there is so much intentional humor woven into each episode that serious subjects like Richie’s attempted suicide, Royal’s turning his grandsons into petty criminals, Margot’s mental illness or Eli’s drug addiction seem like footnotes rather than chapter headings.  If not at the same inspirational level as Anderson’s earlier cinematic triumph, Rushmore, this film remains a well-crafted work that challenges rather than panders to the movie-going public.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase The Royal Tenenbaums [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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Purchase The Royal Tenenbaums [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Download The Royal Tenenbaums on iTunes

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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