Kind of a Wag the Dog for the anthropology set, Krippendorf's Tribe has some sharp moments, as one might expect from a movie in which Richard Dreyfuss and Lily Tomlin go head to head. But what keeps it from being successful is its erratic tone and its compliment of unsympathetic characters. (The fact that it treats the scientific community like gullible bimbos also gives pause.) Director Todd Holland and screenwriter Charlie Peters seem to want a farce/black comedy, but having three cute children in primary roles forces them into the unwitting realm of family movie. More problematic is that the family's mother has just died, yet the movie doesn't give them a chance to mourn her, making her death more like a whimsical plot detail than a key propulsive element or opportunity for genuine sentiment. This also has the effect of downplaying Krippendorf's depressed mental state as a factor in the morally bankrupt decisions he makes. But most sympathy-challenged is Jenna Elfman's junior anthropologist, Veronica Micelli. In her first prominent film role, Elfman effectively transplants her pixie cuteness from TV's Dharma & Greg, but there's something coldly opportunistic about her character that never gets resolved. She doesn't need a good heart in a black comedy, but as a surrogate mother to the Krippendorf kids, in a movie inevitably seen by an audience that same age, she has to provide more. The one actor who does get the tone right is the ever-reliable Natasha Lyonne, in one of her earliest efforts, serving as her father's sarcastic moral compass -- and perhaps the only character who understands the right thing to do.