Krippendorf's Tribe

on February 27, 1998 by Lisa Osborne
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   Bizarre as it sounds, "Krippendorf's Tribe" is a hilarious comedy about the lengths to which one man will go to save his job and reunite his family after the untimely death of his wife. Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss stars as cash-strapped anthropologist James Krippendorf who, unable to work while grieving for his wife, uses his Proxmire Foundation grant--money allocated for his study of an "undiscovered" tribe in New Guinea--to bring up his three children. When the time comes for him to lecture on his non-existent discovery, Krippendorf's creativity is put to the test--he has to manufacture a tribe with its own rituals, traditions and belief system in less than 24 hours. Fortunately, his children--Shelly (Natasha Lyonne), Mickey (Gregory Smith) and Edmund (Carl Michael Lindner)--get in touch with their primal instincts as the Shelmikedmu Tribe and bail him out.
   Krippendorf is an extremely likeable character and even though he's basically defrauding his employer, the entire audience hopes he will somehow pull it off. Dreyfuss does an excellent job playing the desperate but loving father. His sense of humor and comic timing play well off those of his co-star Jenna Elfman, who portrays Veronica Micelli, a fellow anthropologist. Veronica desperately wants to "make her name" and become a partner in Krippendorf's research; her wish is granted, but not in the way she imagined.
   Lyonne, Smith and Lindner give touching performances as Krippendorf's kids. Shelly is the teenage daughter forced to play stand-in mother while still a child and grieving herself. Mickey, the older son, demonstrates a quick wit, great sense of timing and an ability to fabricate stories that rivals his father's. Edmund, the younger son, is mute for most of the movie, making him seem more vulnerable and adding weight to his words when he does speak.
   "Krippendorf's Tribe" can be appreciated on more than one level and as such should appeal to adults and children alike. Despite a couple of slightly risque scenes, it's good family entertainment.    Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman, Natasha Lyonne, Gregory Smith, Carl Michael Lindner and Lily Tomlin. Directed by Todd Holland. Written by Charlie Peters. Produced by Larry Brezner. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual humor. Running time: 94 min.
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