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'The Grand Budapest Hotel' review: Sprawling adventure, excessively offbeat

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Rating:
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Wes Anderson further cements his legacy as one of America's great working filmmakers and storytellers - but this latest offering still doesn't crack his top three best films.

In short: A young bellboy and a renowned concierge of a prestigious hotel find themselves in the middle of tale of murder, theft and a priceless painting. (watch the trailer)

'The Grand Budapest Hotel' is a beautifully told murder mystery which, much in the vein of all Wes Anderson films, has the feel of a rich book brought to life on the big screen.

Anderson's latest is certainly his darkest tale and his most sprawling adventure, with life-and-death stakes, a murder mystery that's complete with a whodunit premise and the heist of a priceless piece of art. This is a world established in rich tones and with great detail to character.

This film wastes no time in establishing the bleak present day and contrasting it to the much better days of The Grand Budapest Hotel, as well as its womanizing, adored concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and green lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori). But more importantly, setting the film in the present, 1960s and 1930s adds a surprising, if dark, depth of thoughtfulness to this story.

While Gustave may very well be the main character, it's heart and soul is Zero, whose surprising character arch over the story's timeline make 'Budapest' arguably Wes Anderson's most intelligent and human film to date. While 'Budapest' is full of the usual Wes Anderson signature quirkiness, it's also tinged with a deep emotional pang and skirts the long-ranging costs of warfare on culture and people.

The main flaw of 'Budapest' is just a few too many of the offbeat moments sharply interrupts or kills story momentum. When characters are on the run or in a pinch, they can be counted on to abruptly stop in their tracks and needlessly exchange Anderson's trademark articulated banter.

It's in these moments when Anderson opts to make 'Budapest' cuter than necessary, which ultimately undercuts its otherwise intriguing mystery, thrilling adventure and compelling undercurrent.

'Budapest' also wedges in some needless cameos -- such as Owen Wilson and Bill Murray -- whose celebrity distracts more than it adds to their very minor character roles.

Finally, for as well spread out as the film's mystery is revealed, 'Budapest' is unfortunately very predictable. The ultimate fate of most of the characters can be reasonable predicted pretty early in the narrative.

Final verdict: 'Grand Budapest' is so close to greatness - but Wes Anderson's three best films remain 'Rushmore,' 'Royal Tenenbaums' and 'Moonrise Kingdom.' This crime-mystery has just a right amount of dark undertones and intrigue, but it would have been served better with just a little bit less of Anderson's trademark quirk. ... 'Budapest' is difficult to peg because it's a few pacing/editing issues away from being a 5-star film and a just few quirky moments short of dropping to 3-stars.

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