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Professor Krippendorf (Richard Dreyfuss) received $100,000 in grant money from his university to go and examine a lost tribe in New Guinea. Months later the money, his wife (who died mysteriously), and his children (who are becoming dysfunctional under his care) are as lost as the elusive tribe.
When Krippendorf returns to the US, a rookie faculty member, Veronica Micelli (Jenna Elfman), begins promoting his work and sets him up on a lecture circuit. Krippendorf will be faced with public humiliation unless he can find some way of explaining what the money was used for, and show filmed evidence of the results of his studies. Rather than tell the truth and face the consequences, he creates a litany of lies and unwittingly develops a docu-drama film career using his sons and reluctant daughter to dress native and play the parts of his fictitious tribe.
This film presents a major moral dilemma by portraying dishonesty as being acceptable. The script is also loaded with direct and indirect sexual references. There is no nudity, but everything else is implied and discussed. After getting Micelli drunk, Krippendorf dresses her up in a skimpy native outfit and films himself having sex with her. He eventually sells the film to a broadcaster as evidence of the existence of his tribe and their mating rituals. In another scene, he stages his older son pretending to circumcise his younger brother.
What could have been a funny premise is lost in exploiting sexual behavior and justifying dishonesty for personal gain. The only person who tries to put a noose around Krippendorf's natives is his teenage daughter. Unfortunately, she becomes convinced that because her father loves her, she should join his conspiracy. This decision gets Krippendorf off the hook -- at the price of his daughter's honesty.
Possibly the best dramatic irony here is observing how civilized man resorts to primitive means to ensure his survival. Your tribe would be wise to hunt elsewhere for entertainment.
Krippendorf’s Tribe is rated PG-13:
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman