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UNDERCOVER BROTHER

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Dave Chappelle, Aunjanue Ellis, Neil Patrick Harris, Chi McBride, Billy Dee Williams
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: January 14, 2003

“So the conspiracies we’ve believed for all these years are true? The NBA really did institute the three point shot to give white boys a chance?”

“Of course!”

“Hollywood IS really out to get Spike Lee?”

“Come on, man! Even Cher’s won an Oscar! CHER!

Film ***

In the realm of movie spoofs, there hasn’t been one as consistently and uproariously funny as Undercover Brother. In fact, I would probably rank this movie right up there with such classic spoof comedies as Airplane! and The Naked Gun. At a swift 87 minute pacing, this movie delivers perhaps the most hilarious one liners and sight gags that I have heard and seen in any comedy of recent years. And what’s more, the movie doesn’t let up for a second, as it always seems to have something up its sleeve at all times. For me, I believe Undercover Brother, like Austin Powers, could very much merit a nice little franchise of sequels. The movie managed to be a little sleeper of a hit last summer, and since some fans were a little let down by the all-too-familiar feel of Austin Powers in Goldmember, perhaps the time for something a bit new couldn’t be better.

The very entertaining and talented comedian Eddie Griffin stars in his most hilarious performance yet as the title character, who sports a funky attitude, a larger than life 70s style fro, and an all around dedication to the cause of The Black Man. Fighting everyday forces of prejudice at every cost, Undercover Brother’s actions soon cross paths with a secret organization known as The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D, whose purpose is very much the same as his, which in particular is to bring down the all hating presence of The Man. After seeing the man in action, the secret organization feels it can use a man like Undercover Brother, and soon recruits him for a very deep undercover assignment. The members of The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D include the Chief (Chi McBride), Sista Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), the very paranoid Conspiracy Brother (Dave Chappelle), Smart Brother (Gary Anthony Williams) who at times doesn’t exactly merit that name, and even Lance (Neil Patrick Harris), the white, affirmative action intern.

Our hero’s assignment is to go undercover as a black sellout businessman in a white corporation in order to  stop The Man’s top henchman, Mr. Feathers (Chris Kattan), who has somehow brainwashed a top presidential candidate (Billy Dee Williams) into leaving politics to open a chain of fried chicken fast food chain. As a countermeasure, Feathers sends in a most distractive weapon, the sultry White She-Devil, aka Penelope Snow (Denise Richards) to infiltrate Undercover Brother at all costs. What follows are some hugely funny moments concerning our hero’s all-too-serious approach to his undercover role.

Undercover Brother is spoofing two primary kinds of films, the James Bond adventures and the Blacksploitation films of the 70s, and when it is poking fun at the latter of the two, it results in endless laughs. Such an example is an incredibly and purposely cheesy chase sequence involving, of all vehicles, golf carts, with the enemy pursuers constantly shouting, “SLOW DOWN!”. Another standout laugh is a catfight in a shower that erupts between White She Devil and Sista Girl, which captures the attention of a few male onlookers who see the fight in a whole different way.

As you can see, I’m giving this movie a much higher rating than I give most comedies. True, you won’t garner anything of importance when watching Undercover Brother but you will indeed get countless laugh out loud moments, which lasts through the entire movie. Having said that, I can honestly say that this is simply one of the funniest comedies of the past few years.

BONUS TRIVIA: Director Malcolm D. Lee is cousin to another filmmaker, Spike Lee.

Video ***1/2

With four big new discs being released within a two week pattern, Universal is likely to take the crown for their outstanding transfers, and Undercover Brother is no exception. The anamorphic presentation captures all of the hip surroundings necessary for a spoof movie. Picture quality is for the most part superb, though a slight bit of image softness is briefly seen, but it is not even the least bit distracting. Colors are wonderfully present and thoroughly natural.

Audio ***1/2

Although this is primarily billed as a comedy, Undercover Brother does offer some sequences of comedic action, as well as a funkadelic soundtrack to back up the laughs. The 5.1 mix does a lot more than you would expect for this kind of movie. The sound quality is thoroughly alive and vivid, whether it is in terms of action scenes, most notably in the last twenty minutes of the movie, or music, which is heard in just about every single scene of the movie. Truly, an outstanding performance of a disc.

Features ****

Solid. Universal is kicking off the year with a bang for their Collector’s Edition, and Undercover Brother ranks as one of the best-loaded discs of the 2003. First off, there are two commentary tracks, one with director Malcolm D. Lee and the other with Eddie Griffin. There’s also a making of documentary titled “Welcome to the Brotherhood”, deleted scenes and alternate ending, a blooper reel, original animated short films which inspired the movie, a music video for Snoop Dogg’s song Undercova Funk, a trailer and DVD-ROM material.

Summary:

Undercover Brother is simply one of the funniest films of recent years, and also ranks, in my opinion, as one of the most hilarious spoof movies since Airplane!.