Movie Man: 'Darjeeling Limited' takes emotional journey

Will Pfeifer

Wes Anderson gets a bad rap.

Critics say his movies are too precious, too quirky and too much of the same thing. Since his 1996 debut with “Bottle Rocket,” they claim, he’s been covering similar ground: stories about men who act like boys, who struggle with father (and mother) issues and who live unrealistic lives in even more unrealistic settings, whether they’re at a quirky prep school (“Rushmore”), in a quirky Manhattan mansion (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) or on a quirky ship (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”). Oh, and Owen Wilson is usually involved on some level, either as a cowriter (“Rushmore” and “Tenenbaums”) or a co-star (all the rest).

Even Anderson’s most recent film, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” was slammed for following the formula, and it’s a movie about animated animals, for Pete’s sake. (Though, admittedly, it did involve Owen Wilson.)

Anderson’s 2007 movie, “The Darjeeling Limited,” fits squarely into this formula. Three men (who act like boys) are coping with their dad’s death on a train trip through India. And yes, the train itself is especially quirky. And yes, Owen Wilson plays one of the sons. But I’d argue that, like all his movies, “Darjeeling” does something unique and special with those standard Anderson elements.

When I first watched “Darjeeling” on DVD (it barely played in theaters), I thought it was fine, but ranked it several notches below his best work. But upon further review — on the brand-new, remastered, extras-loaded Criterion Blu-ray — it looks much, much better. It might not be Anderson’s best film, but I’d argue it’s one of his deepest.

As the movie begins, brothers Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson (of course) have reunited in India one year after the death of their father. Their goal is a soul-searching journey of discovery, but things get complicated by Wilson’s meticulous planning, Schwartzman’s love woes and Brody’s worries about impending fatherhood. So they’re distracted — until a surprise detour brings them face to face with some actual Indian people and some actual human tragedy.

This leads to my favorite scene, and it’s the one that feels the most out of left field: We flash back to the day of their dad’s funeral, when they try (and fail) to get their father’s Porsche out of the mechanic’s shop. Maybe it’s just an excuse to show the guys dealing with their baggage (Get it? Baggage?), but I enjoyed the emotions of the actors, the rhythm of the scene and how it played off the sequence in India it interrupted. It added a depth to the film and rounded out the characters in surprising ways.

That’s why I like Anderson’s movies so much. Amid all the quirk and the comedy and the Owen Wilson appearances, there’s always honest human emotion. Not many directors can pull off that trick.

Contact Will Pfeifer at or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at man.

'Darjeeling' DVD extras

Criterion is known for packing their DVDs and Blu-rays with extra content, and the new “Darjeeling Limited” disc is no exception. Here’s what’s included:

- Commentary from director Wes Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola and actor Jason Schwartzman

- Behind-the-scenes documentary

- Discussion of the music in the film

- Audition footage

- Deleted and alternate scenes

- The movie's trailer

- “Hotel Chevalier,” a short film starring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman

- Andersons’ American Express commercial (which is very funny).

Make room in your collection

Some DVDs out Tuesday

“Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy”: The classic sci-fi trilogy makes its debut on Blu-ray with tons of bonus features, including never-before-seen footage of Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast in the Marty McFly role that Michael J. Fox played.

“Alien Anthology: Blu-ray”: The week’s other big sci-fi Blu-ray release includes multiple versions of the four “Alien” movies, commentary tracks, documentaries and more.

“Sex and the City 2”: Critics hated it and audiences mostly ignored it, but this is the kind of movie that could find its audience on DVD.

“Winter’s Bone”: One of the year’s best reviewed movies, it’s a taut drama about a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) searching for her father.

“House”: Not the Fox medical drama. This is, instead, a Japanese horror movie that’s one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s also a lot of crazy, crazy fun.

“You Don’t Know Jack”: Al Pacino plays Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian in this acclaimed HBO drama.

“Law & Order: UK: Season One”: Wait? There’s a British version, too? Do the lawyers all wear those wigs?

“Man v. Food: Season Two”: Sit down to a big meal and pop this one in your DVD player.

“Tonight: Four Decades of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”: Fifteen discs with selections from 50 separate episodes of “The Tonight Show” dating all the way back to the 1960s.

And CDs

Taylor Swift, “Speak Now”: Don’t worry, Taylor Swift fans — this is not a spoken word album.

Various artists, “Come And Get It: The Best of Apple Records”: Though it was launched by the Beatles in 1968, Apple Records featured other acts, too — including Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston and the memorably named Hot Chocolate Band.

Various artists, “The Imus Ranch Record II”: Levon Helm, Sam Moore, the Blind Boys of Alabama and others contribute to this album aimed at raising money for kids with cancer and blood disorders as well as children who have lost siblings to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Ghostland Observatory, “Codename: Rondo”: A quote from the album’s description on Amazon. com: “Sounds like a robot making love to a tree.”

Jason D. Williams, “Killer Instincts” The singer/piano player describes his music as “‘Jerry Lee Lewis meets Jackson Pollock and Jerry Lee Lewis meets Joe Namath.”

Dixie Chicks, “The Essential Dixie Chicks”: This two-disc collection of the once-controversial band’s music includes “Ready To Run,” “Not Ready To Make Nice,” “Landslide” and other popular tunes.

— Will Pfeifer