A review of  Undercover Brother” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual humor

Run Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

 

 

From the opening strains of the Average White Band’s “Pick up the Pieces” you can feel the love.  Brothers unite with a blaxploitation spoof that offers a lot more than the requisite fifteen minutes of fleeting fame.

It’s 2002, and black culture has lost its distinctive flavor.  Seeing to it that African Americans retain their cornered market on cool is B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., a dedicated group of black folks with a penchant for secret agent gear and keeping the groove on.  A sinister underground movement headed by “The Man” is diametrically opposed to B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.’s work, unleashing a psycho-hallucinogenic drug that will turn all African Americans into zombies.

The Man’s Operation Whitewash has far-reaching implications.  Popular politico and ex- Army General Warren Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams) is their first major target.  In order to keep the white in the White House, The Man gets his hands on the general and pumps him full of the evil miracle drug.  Instead of declaring his bid for the Presidency, Boutwell announces that he’s opening a chain of fried chicken restaurants that serve, among other ethnic delights, Nappy Meals.

Enter Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin), a blue-collar hero with a funky sense of style, a smooth way with the ladies, and a keen sense of justice.  As a consulting operative for the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., the Brother goes undercover with a startling array of alter-egos (think Brendan Fraser in “Bedazzled”). Codename: Sandtrap (a Rastafarian caddie), Codename: Token (a buttoned-up corporate yes-man) and Codename: Brand New Bag (I’m keeping it under wraps) are dispatched to key locations for information gathering and plenty of funky mischief.

Eddie Griffin is funny - the saving grace of this disjointed super spy send-up. Whether spinning out in his Cadillac Coup de Ville (“it ain’t no thang”) or gettin’ down vanilla style (with va-va-voom secret weapon Penelope Snow as played by Denise Richards), Griffin is the real deal – pure slick attitude and colossal ego.  Afros, shades and platforms wear well on the Brother, as does honeyed sidekick Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), a sassy, ass-kicking operative with a cool head and a killer bod.

Film goes south in the last half hour, all slapstick farce that knows no comic bounds.  The results are over-the-top and leeched of all artistic subtleties. No matter – it’s all about the Brother; truth, justice, and the African American way.