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Undercover Brother was the last movie I expected to enjoy when I walked into the theater last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good satire and silly humor.  But, could a movie whose only jokes are race related maintain itself for an hour and a half?  I’m happy to say: Yes, it does.  While not all the jokes work, there are so many jokes that I quickly forgot the ones that fell flat.  The movie holds high replay value and moves at a lightning-like pace.  Universal has also given the movie special treatment on DVD with a great transfer and plenty of special features.

Watch this man handle his Big Gulp and take notes!
The movie opens with a quick history of African American culture through the seventies and the decline of race relations attributed to the work of “The Man”.  We are then invited to view the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D Headquarters.  This elite group of black men and women are intent on bringing The Man down.  They consist of Conspiracy Brother (Dave Chappelle), The Chief (Chi McBride, Boston Public), just plain Brother (Gary Anthony Williams), Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis, Lovely and Amazing) and Lance the intern (Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser, M.D.).

The introductions continue to come quickly.  The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D group’s plans at a bank are thwarted by a mysterious karate chopping, afro-wearing agent called Undercover Brother, played to perfection by Eddie Griffin (Double Take).  The Man and his lapdog, Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live and Corky Romano), are next and we discover their plan to introduce a new drug to General Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams), a man many feel has the potential to become the first black president of the United States.

When General Boutwell (obviously supposed to be a Colin Powell figure) makes his statement to the American public, the drug seems to have taken effect.  Boutwell announces that he will be opening a fried chicken restaurant, shocking the nation.  Thus begins The Man’s “Operation Whitewash”.
Undercover Brother is recruited by the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. to help investigate this strange turn of events.  Undercover Brother is taken through the initial training in the spy world with hilarious spoofs of bond films.  Racial humor, obviously, is at the forefront of this movie and most of it comes from the paranoid rantings of Conspiracy Brother.  Dave Chappelle apparently ad-libbed much of his dialogue and it is some of the funniest in the movie.
Dave Chappelle trying to figure out if his show is still on the air.
The movie proceeds at a pace usually reserved for MTV music video in fast-forward.  This allows the jokes to come quickly and, when one does not work, the movie rapidly moves on to the next one.  One of the funniest sequences, ripe with spot-on satire, is when Undercover Brother must infiltrate The Man’s headquarters, Multi-National Inc.  This is where the audience and Undercover Brother meets the other voluptuous vixen you have seen on the posters, “black man’s kryptonite” Penelope Snow (Denise Richards, Starship Troopers).  This White She Devil is put in place to deter the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D’s operations and succeeds in keeping Undercover Brother stuck in his disguise.  At the same time, The Man is busy funding an aggressive ad campaign for the General Boutwell’s chicken.  The chicken, it is discovered, is more than appears to be.  It is up to Undercover Brother to thwart The Man’s plans.

I really enjoyed this movie, it was a pleasant surprise.  It is well directed and is a lot of fun.  The movie is short enough that it never has the chance to be crushed under its own sillyness.  Overall, the film is just good, clean fun and hopefully will help to show how absolutely ridiculous racial discrimination is.

Undercover Brother" is shown 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.  The transfer is excellent with crisp colors and a definite sharpness.  There were a few traces of edge enhancement, though nothing to get worked up about.  Overall, Universal has handed us a bright, colorful picture that does the movie justice.

A review of this movie would not be complete without something being said about the soundtrack.  The best use of the DTS track exercised with the funkadelic tunes pumped out from time to time.  There’s even a “whitened” version of “The Thong Song” playing in the background of one scene that comes through clearly.  One particular scene, a rooftop dual, is highlighted by Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.  It is uproariously funny scene and the sound pounds through for a great experience.

As for the rest of the movie, both the DTS and DD 5.1 effects fail to impress.  The movie however, is a comedy and the sound is not entirely necessary at all times.  The sound, mainly front-heavy, is crystal clear and dialogue is crisp.

A foolproof plan.
First up we have a pair of commentaries.  Eddie Griffin’s commentary is, unfortunately, not worth the price of admission.  He cracks a few good jokes and gives us minimal production related anecdotes.  Skip this one and listen to director Malcom Lee’s commentary.  He keeps things interesting and gives us some tasty tidbits about production.  However, unless you are a die-hard commentary fan (like myself), you may want to skip both of these as they don’t stand out as anything special.

There is an alternate ending involving the love stories in the movie.  It’s a funny scene, but as the commentary explains, the MPAA (in all their infinite wisdom which has plagued the American film industry for years) decided there were too many innuendos.  The scene was cut.

I love outtakes.  Undercover Brother has a short montage of outtakes, the highlights being Dave Chappelle’s cut ad-libs.  Eddie Griffin is very funny when he misses his lines.  This is a funny feature, watch it.

Next we have the animated shorts that inspired the movie.  These shorts originally aired on the internet and, while funny, seem out of place on the “big” screen.  The one thing that annoyed me about these is that there was no menu to allow me to pick between the individual episodes.  

The couple exchanges naughty looks.
There are a whopping 16 deleted scenes.  These are available with and without director’s commentary.  I personally felt many of these could have been kept in the film.  They are nothing more than additional jokes (the exception being the very first scene which is an intro that is narrated by Dave Chappelle’s character), trimmed because of timing reasons.  Almost every single scene is an entire cut sequence and, therefore, well worth watching.

Snoop Dogg’s “Undercova Funk” music video featuring Eddie Griffin in character.  It’s a catchy tune, but not really my style.  It’s worth checking out at least once.

There is a 20 minute making of special that isn’t too full of technical information (which is what I look for in these featurettes), but there are some good interviews with the director and the actors.  It does contain some interesting tidbits.

There is a music highlights feature that does nothing more than take you to the scenes where the selected songs are used.  It does well to highlight the great soundtrack.  Also included is a “Beat the Man Trivia Game”.  This was enjoyable for a few minutes and is filled with questions concerning the movie itself.

Rounding out this disc is the theatrical trailer, a trailer for Empire, production notes, cast and filmmaker information and 2 DVD-ROM games not played for this review.

I've been saying for years: Chris Kattan is SCARY!
I took a chance with Undercover Brother and was very surprised to find a well-made, incredibly funny film.  The jokes come fast, the soundtrack pounds and the features are plentiful on the disc.  With a silly spin, racial humor is used to full effect.  This movie really can be enjoyed by everyone.  If you are a fan of the movie, this disc is great.