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Undercover Brother | review | dvd | Lollipop
by Chad Van Wagner
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is essentially Austin Powers for the Blaxploitation crowd. What's surprising is that it's better than that Mike Meyers trilogy: Stripped of the goofy product placement and embarrassing, bald-faced attempts at catch phrases, this kind of movie does alright for itself.
Eddie Griffin is the Brother in question, who is basically an amalgamation of Jim Kelly and Sly Stone. The parody is broad, to say the least: Jokes about The Man and "big, black fuzzy balls" abound, and the whole package makes about as much narrative sense as, say, Truck Turner. You see, there really is a "Man," and he exists solely to keep the black man down (using evil henchman Chris Kattan, who is a much better parody of a bad guy than the Powers films have ever bothered to conjure). Of special note is Dave Chappelle, who plays a paranoid conspiracy theory nut, prone to shouting stuff like "Revolution all up in this bitch!" at random. Normally, Chappelle would be the focus of a comedy this broad, but since the genre demands cool, semi-quiet heroes, he's the whacked-out sidekick. He needs his own movie.
This isn't to say Griffin is a, er, black hole of charisma himself. He nails the swagger of the funk-soul-brother-for-justice perfectly and hilariously, which is a difficult balancing act, no matter how close to self-parody the archetype may've gotten. The viewer has no problem picturing him as a bad ass, albeit one who can be a little thick (whereas his white parallel, Mr. Powers, is never more than Mike Meyers in bad teeth and a goofy suit). A perfect, large group movie night flick: Team it up with The Transporter and kiss your brain cells goodbye.