What makes eXtreme entertainment?

A bunch of pre-pubescent enthusiasts with an overly-evolved sense of indestructibility? A group of societal malcontents performing inhuman acts of perversion in an abandoned subway tunnel in the name of performance art? The privileged territory of the uber-rich, spending an obscene amount of money on an unheard of experience deep in the heart of a third-world country, away from the prying eyes of civilized man?

Or perhaps a surprisingly touching family comedy featuring a cast of some of the most unique individuals ever to be seen on celluloid?

Personally, I vote for hidden perversion in the subways. But a close second would be the newest flick with the all-star cast that puts the func in dysfunctional, The Royal Tenenbaums.

The Royal Tenenbaums is an eXtreme movie about eXtreme people and the eXtreme games they play in and around a nice townhouse in uptown Manhattan. There is nothing ordinary about any of the characters in this film. Each and every individual is unique and fleshed out into a whole, which makes for a compelling story about incidents and activity that is as eXtreme as it gets without being animated or starring Adam Sandler.

The story is.. well.. eXtreme. Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum have three children, Son Chas, Son Richie and Adopted Daughter Margot. All five of the family members are brilliant in their own, separate ways. All five of them have grown apart and into their own lives. All five of them are now living under the same roof for the first time in seventeen years. All five of them are now force to deal with the one thing they've pretty much avoided dealing with all these years- each other.

Some families have a crazy uncle who does crazy things like spend a little too much time joking about how much meat one could get off the family dog, or walking to the bathroom naked, no matter who else is in the hall. Other families have that grandmother who pinches all the young boys' bottoms and talks to the couch. The Tenenbaums don't have anyone in the family who DOESN'T do things like that. And when insanity is surrounded by insanity, it becomes, for lack of a better word, normal.

Such is the beauty of this film. Every character is so eXtreme in his or her way, so well put together, thought out and explored, that the most unlikely of events can continue to happen and it all seems perfectly natural. Of course Royal is taking his two underage grandkids to the cock fights! They're the Tenenbaums.

Cock fights aside, this is an intelligent movie about intelligent people. Just about every member of the Tenebaums has either written a book or been the subject of one. Genius is a term tossed about like rice at a politically incorrect wedding. It's a film about eggheads, and what makes them eggheads.

It is possible that some people will not like this movie. Quite simply, there is no ordinary character with which a normal audience can identify. No Mortimer from Arsenic and Old Lace, no Lisa from The Simpsons. This may well turn people off, unable to accept the world as it's presented to them.

Those people are sad, and we mock them openly.

The rest of us can sit back and enjoy a truly funky little film. It starts, as most good films do, with an excellent script. When you write characters and stories as vivid and imaginative as this, good things happen. In the case of The Royal Tenenbaums, one of those good things was a great cast. When good actors get good roles in good scripts, they do good things. Forget what you may think of Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke and Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Danny Glover. You will like them in this movie. Gene Hackman, playing the glue of Royal Tenenbaum that holds everyone together, deserves to be singled out for praise, but there isn't a single player in most other movies out right now who could stand up against the characters in this movie. The Royal Tenenbaums gets 4 Babylons. One Babylon for each Tenenbaum child, plus another Babylon for each of the parents, plus another Babylon for the rest of the Tenenbaum hangers-on. Minus two Babylons for using the name Tenenbuam, which reminds me of an old job I had as a kid.

Editor's Note:

I have no idea what that last line means, so I left it in. Perhaps it's some "in" Brunching Shuttlecocks Lore/Dave/Satan/SMC joke to which the Editor is not privvy...

Rated: R
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray and Kumar Pallana, whose pathway to Hollywood stardom is paved with gold.