out of Five
Running time: 90
A great idea, but a woefully disappointing comedy – by rights, this should be jam-packed with laughs. It isn’t.
Based on a series of extremely amusing internet cartoons, Undercover Brother is a spoof comedy that desperately wants to be the black Austin Powers. There are lots of nice ideas, but for some reason none of them translate into actual laughs.
Comedian Eddie Griffin (previously seen in John Q) stars as Undercover Brother, an afro-sporting superfly secret agent in the blaxploitation mould (think Shaft with a louder dress sense), dedicated to Sticking It To The Man. He’s recruited into the secret organisation The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D and given the assignment of taking down evil genius The Man (Chris Kattan – a sort of unfunny, blander Mike Myers).
The Man’s Evil Plan…
The Man’s evil plan involves the brainwashing of a black presidential
candidate (Billy Dee Williams) and forcing him to promote a fried chicken franchise, except that the chicken has culture-threatening consequences for every black American who eats it…
It’s a real shame that the film has gone for cheap, easy laughs rather than attempt anything approaching a satirical edge – the original cartoons are far sharper and a lot funnier. It’s no surprise that the best gags (mayonnaise being like Kryptonite to the black male etc) are more or less direct steals from the cartoons.
Griffin is a likeable lead, but there are too many knowing winks at the
camera (it’s THAT sort of film) and a lot of the gags are repeated, despite them not being all that funny. The biggest laugh occurs when Undercover Brother and the henchmen he’s fighting take time out to watch Denise Richards (as a sexy double-agent) and someone else have a catfight, though even this is overplayed.
Tenuous Spike Lee Involvement
The film is directed by Spike Lee’s cousin, who, you would assume, had an affinity for the sort of angry edge this requires. At any rate, comic timing is not his strong point.
Admittedly, it’s possible that many of the jokes will be lost on British audiences, in much the same way that the majority of the cast are unknown over here despite being familiar faces in the States, thanks to the likes of TV shows such as Saturday Night Live.
In short, though there are some nice ideas and one or two good moments, the overall result is disappointing and it isn’t nearly as funny or as clever as it should have been. Good soundtrack, though…