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By Admin | April 21, 2004

Premising the Mark

If you were like most and did not see this film just looking at the movie poster of Richard Dreyfus in full native garb is sufficient to produce the same feeling of dismay. The effect is that of a production on par with a bad television pilot that was never picked up for broadcast, yet once you view the entire movie it quickly becomes obvious that even this is a lofty comparison. The comedy is uniformly bad and much of it is as forced as Rosie O’Donnell trying to jam herself into a leotard. The jokes are infantile, the acting ranges from broad to hammy, and the plot contortions would shame a writer from the staff of “Alf”.

Finding the main cause for all of this might appear subtle to some. But clearly the fault that I point to is the marriage of the wrong studio with the source material. The film is based on the novel of the same name, written by English author Frank Parkin back in the mid ‘80s. It is a decidedly British novel with a curious theme and somewhat dark and/or jarring satire. It is hardly the stuff one normally expects to attract the pixie-dust glimmer of Disney Studios. (“Tribe” was produced by Touchstone and released by Buena Vista—both Disney divisions).

Parkin’s novel is centered on a University Professor specializing in anthropology and it is set in the not too distant future. There Krippendorf’s London–and society in general–is spiraling downward into chaos with widespread labor strikes, street riots, and food shortages. The professor is an apathetic sort given to sloth who can barely be bothered to care for his children and tend to the housekeeping, things he is responsible for because his wife is constantly abroad as an international news reporter. The main theme of the novel centers on society’s devolution and as a result, Krippendorf, who begins fabricating field reports of a never discovered tribe of people, begins to witness his children become transformed by reverting to his contrived primitive activities in their backyard.

Much of the book’s satire focused on general society falling apart while the children begin a path of renewed evolution. Along the way there are rather dark passages involving the death of an elderly baby sitter, circumcision rituals, cannibalism, and even an incestuous pregnancy is alluded to. This is not the usual cheerful fare offered up by the House of Mouse. You would think that if this tale were to be successfully adapted for the screen you would need to place it in the hands of a director like Terry Gilliam, or possibly David Fincher in his Fight Club mode. Disney instead elected to excise all the controversial aspects and aimed for the farcical subtext that was not even the primary focus of the book–a professor who fibbed on his theoretical research. Since he lives in England maybe Parkin didn’t notice.

The story continues in part three of MILK CARTON CINEMA: “KRIPPENDORF’S TRIBE”>>>

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