Train of Fools: Darjeeling’s brothers are hapless together.

The Darjeeling Limited opens with an eminently Wes Anderson set piece: A man rushes to an Indian railroad station, where he and a younger man chase a departing train, as the Kinks play “This Time Tomorrow.” To say more would spoil the fun—and that would be unkind, since there’s very little fun to be had in the rest of Anderson’s latest unhappy-family saga. Written by the director with Roman Coppola and co-star Jason Schwartzman, this navel-gazing semi-comedy serves up Anderson’s usual menu of sibling rivalry, parental disappearance, and privileged-kid pique. The young man who runs for the train is the jejune and somewhat nasty Peter (Adrien Brody), who’s about to tour Rajasthan with his bickering brothers: arrogant, manipulative Francis (Owen Wilson) and sneaky, womanizing Jack (Schwartzman). Heavily bandaged after a recent mishap, Francis claims they’re on a voyage of self-discovery, “even if it’s painful.” In fact, he has a secret agenda involving the trio’s runaway mother, who didn’t appear the last time the boys assembled, at their father’s funeral. Though he’s nursing the pain of a recent breakup, Jack is quick to hit on the luxury sleeper’s attendant. Peter buys a cobra and admits he can’t face his pregnant wife. Francis sets the agenda, holds all the passports, and manages the baggage, whose metaphorical significance could not be handled more literally. India provides some colorful backdrops, but it’s a fatally inhospitable climate for Anderson’s whimsy. It’s one thing to see the director’s discontented brats in a prep school (Rushmore) or New York brownstone (The Royal Tenenbaums), quite another to encounter them in a country where daily life is an actual struggle—a scenario that becomes painful when a local peasant boy dies just so that the brothers can have an epiphany. The Darjeeling Limited would be more entertaining if it were all trains and Kinks, without plot or dialogue. The version of the film screened for critics and festivalgoers was preceded by a 13-minute short, Hotel Chevalier, which depicts the Paris meeting of Jack and his lost love (Natalie Portman). It’s a hollow trifle, but it does explain a few things in the longer film, including Portman’s cameo. The average filmgoer will have to track it down on iTunes.