Having sorely missed this film on its first run, I picked it up as a previously viewed VHS tape and screened it just a month after "Life Aquatic" released.
Hackman is sourly delightful as a guy who is simply unashamedly uncaring of his family. Oddly, only he and Danny Glover prove lovable in their own opposite ways. They give their characters weight and fill the screen, while the other characters serve to chop it up with thin personas. However, though populated with talent, the Tenenbaums didn't grab me.
I'm a huge fan of Owen Wilson, I will see anything he's in, but his performance here doesn't warrant buying a previously viewed tape. I also enjoyed Wes Anderson's "Rushmore," but again, while the Tenenbaums in their own quirky way made me laugh at times, they bored me too.
Anderson indulges in a feeling of set-up that bleeds far into the film. Scattered, the production lacks build. It seems to hope that oddity will be enough to entertain. And to a certain limited extent it does. Then as if to justify itself at the last minute, like it's main character, the film's cathartic moment pops without much description or explanation.
Actually, "Royal Tenenbaums" and "Life Aquatic" are quite similar in overall feel. The subtle difference is the strength of Murray's character in Aquatic and the process of his emotional change. Murray anchors the project. Both as written and as acted, that character gives a needed strong foundation to the oddity. Whereas, Hackman's Royal is never allowed that kind of power, his process is never revealed. He's strong yes, but diluted by the scattered others.