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Undercover Brother (PG-13)
Universal
Official Site
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Producers: Brian Grazer, Michael Jenkinson, Damon Lee
Written by: John Ridley, Michael McCullers
Cast: Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, David Chappelle, Aunjanue Ellis, Neil Patrick Harris, Chi McBride, Gary Anthony Williams

Rating: out of 5


Undercover Brother is a fat satire of black and white race representation in American film that greedily nibbles from genres from Blaxploitation to kung-fu to action/crime films. Inspired by John Ridleyís Internet comic, this retro-chic flick, reminiscent of Austin Powers, is the story of an urban hero, a Robin Hood figure, who takes it upon himself to seek social justice through vigilantism while sporting a monolithic afro, pork chop sideburns, and butterfly-collared polyester shirts.†

Like in most action films, the audience endures a classic good versus evil job whose focus is the adversarial relationship between The Man and The Brotherhood, organizations in which our trusty hero becomes involved. The first African American presidential candidate is threatened by The Man, intent on keeping social, cultural, and political control in the hands of the white, elite power structure. The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., protectors of racial diversity in jeopardy, hires Undercover Brother to infiltrate and destroy The Man in order to rescue the Colin Powell-esque candidate, played by Billy Dee Williams. Outfitted in dangerous (literally) bell bottoms and platform boots among other í70s inspired spy accoutrements, UB fights the good fight in his souped-up convertible Cadillac, compliments of The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. team, played by Chappelle, Ellis, Harris, McBride, and Williams.

Undercover Brother employs racial stereotyping, particularly in dialogue, as its main comedic strategy. Itís effective for at least the first half of the film. The audience and I laughed for most of the film, but eventually the constant dependence on superfly blacks (most of the cast) and stiff but jolly whiteys (anyone not cast as superfly) became overwhelming and a little boring. Thankfully, playful action sequences balanced this deficiency in the script. Had it not been for their deft insertion, Undercover Brotherís dialogue mightíve been too heavy handed to be palatable.

Besides its demerits, Undercover Brother has guilty pleasure appeal like what can be derived from cruel childhood pranks or gossipy inside jokes. The chemistry among members of The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. and Griffinís performance as the inimitable UB are certainly the filmís most redeemable qualities. Eddie Griffin gives a very natural (ahem, ďsolidĒ) and might I add flawless performance as the Łber-funky hero.† However, he upstages every other character in the movie, except for maybe James Brown (in a cameo appearance).

All in all this film serves its purpose. Itís funny, action-packed, and a textbook example of the typical Hollywood action film formula. For a mindless good time, you canít go wrong. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in its lightheartedness and humor, making it worth at least a trip to the rental store if not to a matinee.

óMaria G. Rios

 

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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