What up, black?
Spike Lee’s cousin offers a blaxploitation spoof for the new millennium
What it is, is what it is—a blaxploitation spoof that hits all the right funky notes.
It’s 2002, and the black influence on popular culture seems to be in decline. “After great leaps during the civil rights movement of the ‘60s,” the narrator intones in the opening, “the black culture began to lose its flavor.” A montage featuring Urkel, Mr. T and Dennis Rodman in his wedding dress clarify just how badly things have gone. All this, it seems, is due to the dastardly mechanizations of The Man, the shadowy über-villain who oversees the undermining of all things fly from his obligatory secluded island fortress.
Fortunately for Truth, Justice, and the Afro-American way, a covert organization known as B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. is on hand to represent. Its efforts are now especially needed, since The Man, in an effort to keep the white in the White House, has kidnapped the surefire candidate for the presidency (Billy Dee Williams as a thinly veiled Colin Powell type), brainwashing him into withdrawing from the race and announcing that he’s content just to open a chain of fried chicken joints.
This sounds like a job for Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin), Black America’s supercool answer to Austin Powers, the “Robin Hood of the ‘hood.” Like Powers, UB lives in a funky time warp, vintage 1970, all Afro, shades, platforms and ego. And of course he’s one smooth operator. He’s called in by B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. to stop this fiendish plot that ultimately intends to subjugate black culture through diabolical means, of course.
Based on an Internet animated series and directed by Spike Lee’s cousin Malcolm, Undercover Brother is essentially just another send-up farce, the kind of comedy that keeps the gags flying at such a furious pace that even when one falls flat, the next one is already in the air. Fortunately, UB is savvy enough to pull it all off with an obvious affection for the era it satirizes, but with a keen eye for the inherent absurdities of the time. As icing, there’s also the can’t-miss soundtrack (featuring the likes of Average White Band, James Brown, and Earth, Wind, and Fire) to back it up.