Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Starring: Eddie Griffin, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Chappelle, Denise Richards, Chris Kattan | Directed by: Malcolm D Lee | Produced by: Brian Grazer, Michael Jenkinson, Damon Lee | Written by: John Ridley, Michael McCullers, Salanini Patterson | Distributor: Universal Pictures
For everyone who experienced it, the 70s was a very unique time in our history. We were struggling through the consequences of the Vietnam War, Watergate shook the foundation of our political confidence, and we observed the transition from LPs to cassettes and 8-track tapes. The music of these times was very expressive and explored the borders of rock, metal, pop, disco and of course funk.
Several films have tried to relive this era. “Undercover Brother” is another attempt to put a spin on big Afro-hairdos, platform shoes and of course polyester disco shirts. I know that Universal Studios is hoping to discover the success of the “Austin Powers” series and give it a “soulful” spin. Eddie Griffin plays our James Brown Bond in snakeskin leather trousers. He is trying to bring the John Ridley (The Three Kings) Internet cartoon to life. (Hollywood seems to be always trying to build a film around some successful stand up comedian.)
I did like some aspects of our Shaft-like Robin Hood. The sight gags were for the most part far more entertaining than films like “Kung-Pow”. If you grew up in the 70’s—you’ll appreciate them even more. Our Undercover Brother is noticed and recruited by a super-secret organization called B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. who are battling behind the scenes against their arch villain “The Man.” The Man (Robert Trumbull) is trying to eliminate the “soul” of all Afro-Americans and cause them to blend in. He is assisted by his right hand man, known as Mr. Feather (Chris Katan). Their primary concern is a popular Black political figure named General Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams). Just as he is about to launch his candidacy for President, the General is brainwashed and opens a chain of fried chicken restaurants instead.
The Man is determined to keep “the White House white.” This grave matter comes to the attention of the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. and they begin an investigation. The team of Smart Brother (Gary Anthony Williams), Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), and Conspiracy Brother (Dave Chappelle) is led by the Chief (Chi McBride). Together they try to piece together the evidence and find a solution to this challenging dilemma.
But it is decided that the organization needs new blood, leading to Undercover Brother’s recruitment. He begins to infiltrate The Man’s organization and is seduced by White She Devil (Denise Richards). Her cover as the sweet and innocent Penelope Snow blinds our Brother. It isn’t long before Undercover Brother is wearing plaid pants and eating sandwiches on white bread with white mayo. They even sing “Ebony and Ivory” as a karaoke duet.
Most of this film is slick and, of course, very cheesy. It does earn it’s PG-13 rating. There are sprinkles of offensive language. There are also some scenes of implied pre-marital sex, a voyeuristic cat-fight between White She Devil and Sistah Girl, and a rather steamy shower taken by the two ladies. I would compare the presence of this material similar to most Bond-flics.
There are portions of this film that will make you smile as efforts are made to keep the world “a funky place.” There are other parts that will make most Christians wince and say, “Now that wasn’t necessary.” While I liked some of the film, I would not pay full price for it nor can I recommend it. My suggestion once again is to wait for the rent and use the remote if this one appeals to you at all.