Those wickedly soulful blaxpolitation of the 1970s are re-examined and given a sort of “Austin Powers” makeover with the film “Undercover Brother”. But did this brother lose his soul in the transition.
“Undercover Brother” stars Eddie Griffin (Double Take) as the film’s title character. UB teams up with a covert government agency known as the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D to stop a criminal mastermind known as “The Man”. UB is joined by Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis) on the mission as he must all resist the powers of “The Man’s” greatest secret weapon, White She Devil (Denise Richards). The mastermind’s lead henchman is Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) who is sent to stop General Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams) who is running for President.
“Undercover Brother” begins as a comedy which absorbs, loves and utilizes its subject matter. The old-style opening sequence reminded me of those cheesy opening credits for TV series like “Starsky and Hutch”. I liked the UB’s apartment and his huge 70s Caddie. I liked how UB watches “blaxpolitation” films and emulates them.
The film jumps around a lot as it tries desperately to lay out a plot for the film to follow. By the time we are introduced to Denise Richards it begins to show signs of caving in.
Eventually the film wears out its welcome after about forty minutes which is a shame since it has a running time of barely an hour and thirty minutes.
The central character of UB isn’t the greatest character and the world around him should directly support such an offbeat character to make it funny.
It isn’t enough to create a character trapped in a genre but you have to have a reason for him being there and create a universe for him to thrive in. Like how the first “Austin Powers” did with that film’s title character when they used time travel and cryogenics.
I would have liked to have seen this film set and taken place during the “blaxpolitation” era and then developed the storyline. Make fun of the genre directly instead of setting it today where UB seems so out of place.
This film thrives on stereotypes and probably isn’t the greatest or most politically correct film to be showcased. The stereotypes are “tongue-in-cheek” and blown way out of proportion but I liked that it took risks and dared to push the comedic racial envelope. I did withdraw when it fell away from the subject matter that inspired it. It’s bold to be different but watch it could come back to bite you.
3 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.