Aug 2, 2014

Review: Krippendorf's Tribe (1998)

Richard Dreyfuss is a well-respected actor and for good reason. At one point the youngest actor to have won an Academy Award, he's been in some classic movies and he's given great performances. I'll admit that I haven't personally seen too much of what he's been in besides the really big stuff like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I mean I'm only 23. But from what I've seen I can understand all the fuss around him.

Krippendorf's Tribe is based off of a novel by Frank Parkin. I've never read it and I don't know if the film gets it right. The premise of the film I'm sure actually would make for an entertaining book. Imagine, an anthropologist who has to fake a big discovery in order to not get accused of misusing the grant he was given years ago. There are lots of opportunities to inject some comedy and some thrills that would come about as this anthropologist navigates his web of lies.


Genre: comedy
Directed by: Todd Holland
Produced by: Larry Brezner, Ross Canter, Whitney Green
Written by: Charlie Peters
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Running time: 94 minutes
Production company: Dreyfuss / James Productions, Touchstone Pictures
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $7,751,115 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman, Natasha Lyonne, Gregory Smith, Carl Michael Lindner, Lily Tomlin, Stephen Root, Doris Belack, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Siobhan Fallon, Amzie Strickland,
Phil Leeds, Frances Bay, Susan Ruttan, Barbara Williams, Elaine Stritch, Tom Poston, Zakes Mokae



James Krippendorf (Richard Dreyfuss) is a respected anthropologist who leaves for New Guinea with his family to find a lost tribe. No such tribe seems to exist though and when James' wife dies, he's left alone to raise his three kids. He forgets his work and uses up the rest of the grant money he was given to help pay for raising his children. He finds out that he's to be the main speaker at an event in the college where he's a professor. Not only that, but he's supposed to talk about the lost tribe that he's found. Krippendorf has to figure out a solution or he risks being thrown in prison for the misuse of the grant money.


Director Todd Holland's most famous work is probably the TV series Malcolm in the Middle. He directed 26 episodes and was the co-executive producer for the show. It was funny if you ask me and had a bit of a zany kind of energy to it. I think we can see the early workings of the same kind of thing in Krippendorf's Tribe. It's got some family-oriented comedy in there mixed in with some, well I'm not really sure what else. There's barely anything that's funny throughout this whole movie except for a few rare moments.

The family comedy stuff are basically scenes where there's non-stop antics that pack a lot of energy. It's a dumb, unfunny energy though that doesn't sustain itself in any shape or form. Kids throwing balled up McDonald's burger wrappers at each other? Not funny. One of Krippendorf's sons finding out that his hamster is alive when he really wants a dog so he swats at it with a rake? Not funny either. Most of the family misadventures are irritating to watch to say the least. Going away from the family stuff, there are a few rare moments where there's something that's worth a laugh. Those moments are exceedingly rare though.

One of the weirdest things about Krippendorf's Tribe is getting Richard Dreyfuss to disguise himself as one of the lost tribe chiefs that he's invented. Not only is it kind of insulting to real tribes of New Guinea, it's incredibly depressing to see Richard Dreyfuss be put through this ordeal. His partner/love interest is played by Jenna Elfman and she isn't funny or charming in the least for this film. She has no chemistry with Dreyfuss and she's also the main catalyst in one of the most awkward pre-sex/sex scenes I've maybe ever seen in my life.

Todd Holland tries to keep things moving at a frenetic pace but just ends up crashing and burning. Jokes are rarely humourous and the tribal stuff toes the line of offensive and racist. I don't know what it took to get Richard Dreyfuss to agree to this mess but I hope it was a fat check. Really, really fat.




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