Krippendorf's Tribe (1998)
User ReviewsReview this title
I show it to my Introduction to Anthropology students every year. They laugh, they ask questions, and they appreciate the film. I recommend it. I've used it for years in Anthropology classes - I have students analyze the Shelmikedmud and come up with more cultural traits. I then follow by having them simulate the type of cultural creations that scifi writers do - creating their own alien cultures.
There's a bit of exaggeration that will hold the interest of those who want primal fun, but little enough as not to displease those who do not want to be submerged by unrealistic situations.
The intelligent humor of the dialogs and scenario will easily enthused those who need smarts to appreciate a comedy, but not so much as to rebuff those who do not want to work their brains to laugh.
The acting is without reproach, even if a few of the secondary characters are a bit caricatured. The photography, soundtrack, and editing are as perfect as they are invisible, yet remarkable. The story is without logical flaw.
A must see, easily enjoyable by anyone.
As my title blurb says, this movie spoofs Academia and the Tasaday hoax. If you're not familiar with the latter, a supposedly isolated tribe still living in the Stone Age was "discovered" on the Philippine island of Mindanao and prominently featured in a 1972 issue of National Geographic. In 1986 it was discovered that the Tasaday were simply members of known local tribes who put on the appearance of living a Stone Age lifestyle under pressure from Manuel Elizalde.
The movie's silly and fun, but not laugh-out-loud funny, although there are a handful of mild laughs. That said, humor's a personal thing, which explains why some people find this movie funny. I don't, but it's likable and quietly amusing. If you're a fan of Dreyfuss and Elfman it's a must.
The film runs 94 minutes and was shot in the Los Angeles area and Ka'a'awa, O'ahu, Hawaii.
How could Richard Dreyfuss have possibly descended this far? The acting is passable, but the script is truly dreadful. Embarrassingly bad.
This sounded like it would be painful to watch, and in some places, it is just that. but overall, this bears an endearing tone, and a genuine humor, which consistently colors the work, throughout.
Dreyfus's character, Krippendorf, is a frantic/manic anthropologist who tries to seem as though he is calm and collected, on the surface of the deception he has laid. Dreyfus is a phenomenal actor, who needs another Jaws/Close Encounters to revitalize his career. I wonder if Spielberg is listening? His performances come off as direct projections from the heart, no matter how low the budget they allow him, or what horrendous costars they saddle him with.
This work features a quirky story line with quirky subplots, and quirky characters, but none as enigmatic as Krippendorf himself.
This is a great way to spend a couple of hours, but as a Disney movie? Disney rewrites known history to suit its ends, and usually does so with great panache, but the return to ethnocentrism is potentially damaging to the field of anthropology. However, if you can suspend belief, which you must do to enjoy any Disney movie, then you may find the enjoyment from it that I did, but as usual, I'm in the minority.
It rates a 7.1/10 from...
the Fiend :.
Well, see this flick if you are 1) into masochism, or 2) into laughing at the downfall of a once great actor (although his ever having reached that level of greatness is highly debatable). Thank you good sirs and madams for your time. Any one who reads this, please feel welcome to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org I am interested in forming an Anti-Krippendorf's Tribe Group.
Embarrassing exhibition what offends at each turn, and in every possible way imaginable. Beneath the veneer of an imbecilic plot, we discover a prodigious assortment of xenophobic, elitist, snobbish, supremacist humor that would make Sam Kennison wince. The film says to us "Hee hee look at the naked funny dark people" while the film's producers say, "No, no, that is what we are lampooning and exposing to the world, and condemning." Really boys, where's the humanitarian profit going? Richard Dreryfus's career, not unlike the obnoxiously hot summer, has surely run its course. He should go back to selling aluminum siding, and maybe Danny DeVito will do another documentary about him, Tin Men, Too: The Big Scam or something like that. That's the only entertainment the guys ever given me.
Aside: The film's lone merit lies in its unintentional revelation of how most broadcast news media is presented to us by the networks. Know what I'm saying?
It's tempting to blame the low quality on the abysmal acting, but the abysmal acting is surely the product of the even worse script. Saturated with one-liner duds, 10-liner clunkers and painfully feigned scenes, this movie could be usefully employed in screen writing schools as an example of what not to force your actors to try and portray on screen. I'm disappointed that Richard Dreyfus agreed to take this movie, though a senior academic role could have suited his acting abilities well. Instead he pumps a heinous "performance" as a simply execrable poseur (we're supposed to sympathize with this guy...right?)--the quality of whose character corresponds well to the cringe-inducing wretchedness of the writing. Every other character in this movie is a paint-by-numbers cardboard figurine.
The audience suffers through a ride at least as irritating as the one endured by the (humorously-named?) professor's colleagues. Unfortunately the audience sees each rusty step approaching from miles away, preventing us from at least sharing in the colleagues' mild palliative of "surprise". As with many other bad movies this one was banking on a potentially humorous idea that, uh, doesn't quite work out. This movie is of the variation of bad that precludes even enjoying laughing at its radiant badness. Trust me, there will be no laughter. Every part of the movie, from the chokeworthy "jokes" to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones ska tracks suggests a kind of "ironic" self-referential "humor" that we're all (for some reason) supposed to be joining in on. Note to directors: next time please drop the "irony" and just aim for humor. Judging from this movie, that alone would be no small accomplishment! I almost can't believe this thing was released into theaters.
If you paid money to see this in a theater or rent it on video...well I'm just sorry. I would expect to see this as a staple of UHF stations' low-powered weekend afternoon matinées for some years to come. But hopefully not for too long!
That was my first mistake.
The second thing I did wrong was to continue watching past the first commercial break, and on to the end credits. I was completely fascinated by how utterly terrible this movie is. I don't think I've ever seen a movie this awful with so many recognizable, decent actors taking part. Dreyfuss, Elfman, Lily Tomlin, David Ogden Stiers, Stephen Root, Natasha Lyonne, Siobhan Fallon, Elaine Stritch, Tom Poston, Susan Ruttan...all names I know, all actors I've seen before, never in anything this ridiculous and pointless.
During the opening credits, we see Professor Krippendorf and his family in New Guinea, hanging out with a local tribe. Next we see the Professor on his couch two years later watching his video of this trip. It is soon revealed his wife has died, and apparently he has been on this couch ever since, because Jenna Elfman shows up at his door to remind him he has a presentation that night about the lost tribe of New Guinea. She's supposed to be his former student, now fellow professor of anthropology, but she spends the entirety of the movie acting as agent between Krippendorf and a cable network. Sounds like the writer really paid a lot of attention to this character.
So he sits at McDonalds with his unruly children and tries to write a speech for his presentation, but comes up with nothing. When he arrives at the lecture hall, hundreds of people wait for his groundbreaking research to be revealed. Of course, he doesn't have any research. Whatever this lost tribe is, he never found it. So it's still lost. But I'm asking myself, what lost tribe? I just saw the video footage of him with a tribe in New Guinea! Is that not them? If not, who are they? Why are all these people at the lecture hall expecting something of him? If he didn't find anything, why don't they already know that? Where did they get their expectations? Why can't he just say "I didn't find that tribe, and my wife died, and I've been kind of depressed"? Why didn't he tell them that when he got home from New Guinea?
Other stupid questions: Why did he buy a big screen TV with the grant money? Why didn't he use the grant money to pay his mortgage and his bills instead of allowing his home to near foreclosure? Why is he so close to losing his house if he's still on staff at the university? If he has an office and friends there, why don't they have any idea what's been going on with him professionally for the last two years?
I realize a supposedly screwball comedy requires there to be a great deception during the first act, which must then be supported through the third act until all is revealed. That's fine, but as far as the story being told, there is no reason for them to expect anything, so there is no reason to lie. It's my understanding he'd have this presentation to tell them what he found. If he didn't find anything, why can't he say so? Why do they expect something amazing? Who told them something amazing had happened? And why is this business of a "lost tribe" being brought up as if I knew what they were talking about? Is that why he went to New Guinea? To find a lost tribe? Why has this exposition not been supplied to me? All I know is, the movie opened with him talking to members of a tribe, and now he's saying he lost the lost tribe. That makes no sense. None of the first part of the movie makes any sense.
That's only the beginning. The rest of movie is filled with jokes that are either totally inappropriate or just plain fall flat. Jokes about circumcision? Is this the funniest thing they could think of? One of his kids puts on some kind of show and tell about a native girl's first menstruation. Why? The only good thing about this scene is the one-line role of a young Mila Kunis as his classmate playing the native girl. He's even unwrapping a bloody cloth in the next scene. I just don't see the point, or the humor.
Nothing in this movie is funny. Everything plays like a bad old sitcom at best. Three minor positive notes: One - the aforementioned Mila Kunis, who has a spectacular voice, though as I said she only has one line, but it was nice to see her. Two - Jenna Elfman's butt. In her underwear. Not exactly a reason to see a movie, but if you are watching the movie, it's there in a pair of brief scenes; yes that pun was intended. Three - cinematographer Dean Cundey, always a pro with the pretty pictures. Why he chose to work on this movie, I'm sure I'll never know. I hope they paid him handsomely.
The plot in "Kripendorf's Tribe" was totally ridiculous, and I couldn't even manage to get one laugh out of the entire film. The idea of inventing a bogus tribe--and of filming his yard while dressed as a member of that tribe--yuk! I couldn't wait for this movie to end--and that is quite unusual for me.
In my opinion, this film is "flap-stick" in nature--totally not my kind of flick. It may be enjoyable to some children, but it was not for mine.
Save your money, don't even rent this waste of time!
Dreyfus handles the comedy with aplomb as he has done before, with the help of a supportive cast. It was nice to see Phil Leeds one last time in a couple of very brief appearances in a crowd scene. He was one of those talented character actors who always added that bit of spice to a production. This movie is very well put together, and just so ridiculous you got to laugh. In the end you will wish you were Shelmikedmu too. It's definitely worth seeing.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
I do not recommend this movie, for the above reasons, for children.
The biggest problem is the huge suspension of disbelief required to accept even at a basic, unrealistic level - the preposterous central idea. Although there have been real-life academic and journalistic shams, this film never pretends to be rooted in any kind of realism, but the material is so weak that even wringing slapstick out of it is a challenge, resulting in some kind of unfunny vacuum for the most part.
It's a shame that all concerned didn't attempt to do anything a little more serious with it. Scattered here and there in the script are some telling comments on the clash of cultures and relative benefits and drawbacks of two types of civilization the hurried lives of cosmopolitan America and the more basic, living-with-nature life in rural South America. Even those few scraps are a wealth of depth compared to the awfully shallow "Jungle 2 Jungle."
The greatest mystery may be how such a quality cast was lured to such a substandard production. Dreyfuss does his best to carry the film and this is a good exhibit for his merits as a comic actor, for few others could coax laughs out of such patchy material. Those around him do as well as can be expected, most notably some great lines from Phil Leeds in a cameo towards the end, which is one of the very few rewards for sticking with it to the closing credits.
With all the adult references and situations in this thing I have a real hard time understanding why anyone would take their kid to see it. OK, it involves a "family," or rather a widower with three kids, but the buck stops there as far as so-called "family entertainment" goes. People taking their kids to see this film remind me of the same breed of parents who let their kids watch Spin City: The logic being they think it's funny, and because there's no nudity nor "gross" humor in it, it's therefore okay for kids to watch.
Wrong. Kids, like adults, understand words, phrases, gestures, but don't always comprehend their entire context (though they have a hint of the meaning). This is why we have things like Sex-Ed in our schools; to keep them from getting into trouble. But that's neither here nor there, because the films been out since 1998, and most people who were inclined to see it (with or without their children) already have.
As far as a movie on its own I'd give this thing a passing grade. It's really the kind of film that would've been made prior to 1970, where cross cultural understanding was just coming out of its infancy. The formula of a "lost tribe" is a vehicle used in classic comedies (TV and feature film) of eras gone by. In today's age of interconnectivity, just on the most basic level of common sense understanding, it's hard to imagine a tribe of people not having been contacted by modern society. But hey, it's a movie, so anything's possible.
It is a junk film on one level. The humor, for what it is, didn't need to be so blatant, obvious, and mildly blue. There was a real opportunity to create something here, but, as usual, the marketing "geniuses" probably got their hands on the script before either cast or crew, and dictated how many and what kind of jokes were to be in the film. I say that because I have a real hard time believing any intelligent screenwriter would write action and dialogue portrayed in this film... unless hey were a hack B-movie producer.
For all that the story's actually kind of likable, and the general look of the film (bright colors and well lit scenes) is rather pleasing. And the acting is actually quite good. Dreyfuss doing his usual high energy stuff is always fun to see. But the meat of the film, the actual words spoken, actions performed, and one disappointing and obnoxious prop protruding from Dreyfuss'es crotch, leaves much to be desired.
Frank Parkin and Charlie Peters are given the writing credits for this flick. To them I say "Don't quit your day job."