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UNDERCOVER BROTHER

Mike Myers will soon ask us to find the word "shagadelic" funny again, but Undercover Brother is my anachronistic secret agent of choice this summer. Of course, this obtuse, horny, funny-haired sleuth (Eddie Griffin) owes more than a little to Austin Powers. And yes, the film relies on two well-worn concepts: the retro cool — and sometimes the silliness — of ’70s black culture, and the notion that whites are as uptight as blacks are dy-no-mite. But it’s still fun, thanks less to Griffin or the rest of the cast than to screenwriters John Ridley and Michael McCullers (who helped Myers script the forthcoming Austin Powers sequel). They provide a lot of wit, sometimes Zucker Brothers-esque, sometimes biting. And they’ve come up with the great premise that there really is a white arch-villain named the Man and that he wants to wipe out black culture by way of tainted fried chicken.

Undercover Brother is based on an Internet animation series, and director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike’s cousin) gives the film a nice free-of-the-laws-of-physics quality. One complaint: too many jokes rely on the audience’s knowledge of American pop culture — proof, perhaps, that we’re all under the control of the Man. Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, and Aunjanue Ellis help out.

BY MARK BAZER

Issue Date: June 6 - 13, 2002
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