I finally got to see The Royal Tenenbaums yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a dry, witty comedy much in the same vein as Wes Anderson’s other works, and compliments Bottle Rocket and Rushmore nicely.
In the Wes Anderson universe, Bottle Rocket was set in a fairly everyday world, populated by everyday interesting characters with the central one, Owen Wilson’s character Dignan, being occasionally absurd while appearing so delusional he doesn’t know how absurd he really is. In Rushmore, again it is set in an everyday setting, with everyday, interesting characters, but at the center is Max Fischer, a 15 year old that says everything and does everything in absurd ways, essentially taking the delusion to the next level. I think the differences between the two movies are having Bottle Rocket’s character being occasionally absurd, and Rushmore’s character regularly absurd, and when you compare the two to The Royal Tenebaums, it’s basically in the same vein.
You’ve got the same everyday setting (this time in NYC instead of the previous two being set in some nameless Texas town), with a sizable cast of interesting characters, but instead of a single absurdist figure, there’s a whole family of them. Imagine Rushmore with three or four Max Fischers, surrounded by three or four more Dignans, with the central character (Gene Hackman’s brilliant Royal Tenenbaum) being like Max Fischer to the n-th power.
The comedy is completely dry, usually subtle, and far from the typical “laff riot” comedies that get made these days. If you didn’t think Rushmore was a funny movie, you won’t like this one. I don’t know what Wes Anderson will do next, perhaps he’ll try putting his absurd characters in more absurd situations or places, but his current work stands as probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year (although, I don’t think this has been a good year for comedy).