Undercover Brother

on May 31, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
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   "Austin Powers" meets "Shaft" might have been the pitch, but that would have been a good movie. Instead, "Undercover Brother" (based on the popular web animation series created by co-screenwriter John Ridley) is neither funny nor sexy-cool. Indeed, it's mean-spirited and, frankly, a little racist. It's a camp comedy that completely misses the point of both camp and comedy.

   The setup pits a nefarious covert organization called THE MAN against the equally clandestine B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. One can easily predict the jokes and their white male butts. The Man is always trying to keep a brother down--especially a popular Colin Powellesque former four-star general (Billy Dee Williams) poised for a run at the White House. When The Man brainwashes the general into opening a popular chicken franchise instead, Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin of several bad Eddie Griffin films) is sent in to sort things out. Using an assortment of disguises and assisted by a crack team of Brotherhood operatives, including Conspiracy Guy (Dave Chappelle, "Half Baked"), Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis of "Caveman's Valentine"), and Nerdy White Dude (Neal Patrick Harris), Undercover Brother attempts to undo The Man's plot. But all too soon he's thwarted by White She-Devil (Denise Richards), Undercover Brother's only Kryptonite. And so on.

   It isn't that there are no funny bits in "Undercover Brother"--in fact, the opening sequence involving a convertible '67 Caddy, a Big Gulp and the application of maximum cool is hysterical. But the jokes about why a brother can't get a job soon wear thin. What would have been funny in a context other than the racial justice agenda of this film is a movie about a Brother stuck in '70s cool infecting all of society with the P-funk. A joyous movie celebrating afros, platform shoes, fancy handshakes and leather everything. This obvious, obnoxious and didactic burlesque is not that film. Starring Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Dave Chappelle, Aunjanue Ellis, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Noseworthy, Gary Anthony Williams, Billy Dee Williams and James Brown. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Written by John Ridley and Michael McCullers. Produced by Brian Grazer, Michael Jenkinson and Damon Lee. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG for language, sexual humor, drug content and campy violence. Running time: 88 min

Tags: Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Dave Chappelle, Aunjanue Ellis, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Noseworthy, Gary Anthony Williams, Billy Dee Williams, James Brown, Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Written by John Ridley, Michael McCullers, Produced by Brian Grazer, Michael Jenkinson, Damon Lee, A Universal release, Comedy, hysterical, disguises, operatives, brotherhood
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