HTF REVIEW: "Undercover Brother" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 28, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    Undercover Brother




    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 87 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English and Spanish



    He's All Action
    Holy Motown!
    The success of Austin Powers has paved the
    way for a multitude of similar copycat retro super
    agent send ups. Usually one can immediately sense
    a bad copycat, and I went into Undercover
    Brother expecting the very worst. But something
    happened from the very moment the opening credits
    began rolling -- I found myself laughing hysterically
    at a movie that has enough funk and soul to hold
    itself up as an originally funny and likeable secret
    agent comedy. In fact, I am here to proclaim that
    Undercover Brother has become my newest hero,
    joining the ranks of Austin Powers and Ace Ventura.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Based on a web-based animated series created by
    screenwriter John Ridley, Undercover Brother
    is directed by Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike)
    and it stars Eddie Griffin as the afro bearing,
    polyester wearing, Cadillac steering enforcer of
    justice. Called upon by a secret African American
    organization called the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.,
    Undercover goes after "The Man", who is angered
    by the rising influx of hipness in American culture.
    "The Man" takes control of a politically rising
    black General (Billy Dee Williams) in an effort to
    whitewash America.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Undercover Brother simply doesn't honor nor
    imitate all those cool blaxploitation pictures, it
    goes one step further by throwing in enough pop
    culture references to keep the film fresh and funny
    from becoming to end. Credit must be given to
    Eddie Griffin and Chris Kattan (Mr. Feather) whose
    facial exchanges alone are enough to make you bust
    out laughing. You'll wet yourself as you watch this
    undercover hero become a Rastafarian or, a milquetoast
    white wannabe. The rest of underground group of
    freedom fighter cast seem to be having just as much
    fun: Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), Smart Brother
    (Gary Anthony Williams), Conspiracy Brother (Dave
    Chapelle), and the Chief (Chi McBride). All of
    these people make up a nice supporting set of
    characters from which jokes are often made.
    How is the transfer?
    Holy funkadelic! This is a nearly perfect transfer
    from the folks at Universal. Picture is pristine,
    clean and highly detailed. This is what I call one
    of those "in-your-face" transfers where everything
    is bold and sharp. Black levels are nice and deep.
    Colors are extremely vivid here, but I fear that
    perhaps they run a little too hot as all the facial
    tones take on a bit of an orange color as if
    everything was being overexaggerated. Perhaps this
    was the look the filmmakers were going after. Some
    of the most beautiful scenes take place in a golf
    course, and it is here amongst the green grass
    and foliage that you will see how well this transfer
    shines. I expect everyone will be highly satisfied
    by this excellent transfer.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    While I am always excited by any DVD that contains
    a DTS mix, I was disappointed that the soundtrack
    doesn't take advantage of all DTS has to offer.
    Though sound is clean and crisp, it doesn't sound
    full-bodied nor does it fully take advantage of
    it's 5.1 capabilities. There's not a lot of bass
    here as sound stays mostly in the higher end of the
    dynamic range. The LFE channel doesn't come into
    play at all. This is a real shame, because the film
    boasts some great 70s music from the likes of
    Average White Band, Parliament, Kool & The Gang
    and The O'Jays. The music has no real punch
    across the front channels, and the rears only provide
    an echo effect. Stanley Clarke's score is the only
    music that envelopes the entire listening area from
    time to time. Still, the rears are active throughout,
    doing a superb job of delivering the film's effect
    noises.
    Special Features
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    This DVD comes packed with more substance than a
    bottle of Afro-Sheen. Though the film itself is
    wort the price of this DVD, it's a real bonus to
    find material here that is mostly fun to browse
    through.
    There are two Feature Commentaries on this
    DVD. The first is with actor Eddie Griffin. The
    second is with director Malcolm D. Lee. I opted
    to listen to the Eddie Griffin's commentary which
    was a bit of a disappointment mainly for the fact
    that the comic actor is obviously not used to doing
    this sort of feature. Eddie mostly sits back with
    long periods of silence, mostly laughing at his own
    antics. Sure he points out little things going on
    in the background or when other actors are ad-libbing
    their scenes -- but none of it is really interesting.
    I couldn't take much more and I quickly switched over
    to Malcom Lee's track. Much, much better. Malcolm
    begins talking about the complications of designing
    the film's opening sequence. Malcolm is a great fan
    of action and black exploitation films. It was this
    knowledge of film that enabled him to have as much
    fun as he could parodying them. He also understands
    the need to pace his comedy films well, providing
    enough reaction shots and not making sequences run
    flat. His motto seemed to be, "keep the story
    moving." One of the big scenes he had to compromise
    was the golf course sequence that had to be greatly
    shortened. Malcolm also touches upon the film's
    funkadelic soundtrack, comparing it those used in
    blaxploitation films. No matter how bad those film
    were, the music was always good. Though Malcolm
    is proud of this film, he doesn't hesitate to point
    out the many jokes that he felt went flat. All in
    all, I found this commentary to be pretty decent.
    [​IMG]
    The making of Undercover Brother is a really
    fun featurette mainly thanks to the behind-the-camera
    antics and interviews of Eddie Griffin. Who else
    could pull off a Negro with a huge afro and pork
    chop sideburns?! This fast-paced featurette takes
    us through the entire roster of actors, with each of
    them talking about their characters as well as what
    it was like to work with the other cast members.
    Yeah, there's a lot of ass-kissing going on here,
    but you just gotta love the delivery! We also learn
    how the film's solid-gold '70s soundtrack was put
    together, as well as a song that was revised by
    Snoop Dogg. Though this featurette gets a little
    too scene dependant, it still stays lively and fun.
    (length: approx. 22 minutes)
    The film's alternate ending is somewhat amusing.
    It reintroduces She-Devil (Denise Richards) to Sistah
    Girl during a very compromised situation. Fortunately,
    Conspiracy Brother's brownies save the day! You can
    opt to watch this ending with Director's commentary.
    (length: approx. 2.5 minutes)
    [​IMG]
    So what does one do when actors flub their lines or
    tumbleweeds refuse to tumble on cue? Why you put it
    all together in the film's outtakes reel. This
    nearly 4-minute compilation of goofs and flubs is
    quite funny. You'll love watching Dave Chapelle
    (Conspiracy Brother) trying out different versions
    of his "black man" speech or Aunjanue Ellis (Sistah
    Girl) unsuccessfully trying to rip the clothes off
    Denise Richards.
    There are a dozen deleted scenes for you
    to amuse yourself with. Some of the scenes include...
    * A deleted introduction that gives us an alternate
    introduction to the film's characters via a monologue
    by David Chapelle.
    * In a scene that may be considered overly racist,
    we revisit the old joke of how a black man can't
    catch a NYC cab.
    * A pretty funny scene where two white golfers
    approach the Jamaican brother hoping to score some
    weed. Insulted by all this, Undercover fixes them
    by mixing his own special concoction of smoke.
    * Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) practicing some
    martial arts moves. It is here that we first
    discover his secret weapon.
    * Mr. Feather directing the General's Chicken
    commercial. Notice his group of white henchman
    walking through the backdrop.
    All of these scenes are in fairly good condition.
    You can opt to play them with director Malcom D.
    Lee's commentary.
    [​IMG]
    So where did the concept of Undercover Brother
    come from? You'll have the opportunity to watch
    the original internet shorts that inspired
    the film. Created by Undercover Brother co-
    writer John Ridley, these are the hilarious 3-5
    minute flash animation shorts that were first seen
    on UrbanEntertainment.com
    (length: approx. 21 minutes)
    In addition to the film's 4-minute Music Video,
    Undercover Funk by Snoop Dogg (combined with
    a short promo spot for the soundtrack), there's a
    Music Highlights area that lists the 25 songs
    in the film, enabling you to click on each to take
    you directly to the scene they appear in.
    Rounding out the extras is the film's original
    theatrical trailer as well as an extensive
    cast and crew filmography and production
    notes that takes us through John Ridley's
    creation of animated shorts that led to Producer
    Brian Grazer's making of the film.
    Beat The Man Trivia Game is sort of lame
    and a real cinch to play once you have seen the
    film. Answer a bunch of questions related to the
    film and receive a payoff worth missing.
    Finally, you won't miss the inclusion of the upcoming
    trailer for Johnny English that plays at the
    start of the DVD -- but don't miss the trailer for
    Empire that is hidden under the Universal
    Showcase header.
    Special DVD-ROM interactive games on the
    DVD include "Cadillac Drive and Jive" and
    "Afro Attack."
    Final Thoughts
    [​IMG]
    After this year's disappointing third installment
    of Austin Powers: Goldmember, one can't help
    but see Undercover Brother as the year's most
    hilarious (and under appreciated) comedy. Fans of
    Austin Powers and films like Inspector
    Gadget
    and The Ladies Man will no doubt
    love this film. I loved it so much that I intend
    to watch it a second time this week.
    Step aside Austin Powers -- when you've had
    Undercover Brother there's just no other.
    Make an effort to rent this film and watch it with
    a group of friends who love to laugh!
    Release Date: January 14, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

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    Great to hear they put a lot of effort into this disc. I know quite a few people here will be excited to hear how good the disc is, including myself.
     
  3. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    "George Washington Carver invented the first computer out of a peanut! A PEANUT!"
    Conspiracy Brother

    Picking this one up on street date...hold the mayo.
     
  4. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    Nice review of a wonderful film! I went into this one purely on the strength of the trailers... and was not dissapointed. I think I damn near pissed myself laughing during the opening sequence with the spinning car and Orange Soda... great stuff. I was like you, Ron, in my dislike for Goldmember (though I purchased it anyway, for some reason...) and I will be first in line on the 14th.

    But you mention Inspector Gadget... I've not seen the Disney film, is it any good?
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Justin,

    Inspector Gadget was okay. This film
    just reminded me a little of it.

    I predict this is going to be a hot renter for
    DVD. It really is one of the funniest films I
    have seen all year.
     
  6. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    Problem is, I don't have the money to buy this one at the moment... I've got it on my review cue on DVDShrine.com, but Lord know, considering I'm working on Stuart Little 2, Halloween: Ressurection, and some low-budget "dot comedy" I probably won't get a crack at it.

    We'll see how the release-day sales are... that's the only reason I picked up Austin Powers... 14 dollars was too good to pass up.
     
  7. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Thomas,
    I wanted so much to put this up as a HIGHLY
    RECOMMENDED. The problem is, how do you put
    Undercover Brother in the same stats of
    other Highly Recommended titles like
    How Green Was My Valley and Lord Of The
    Rings Extended?
     
  9. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Ron,

    You don't. The Golden Globe Awards did a very smart thing in splitting up movie awards between dramas and musicals or comedies. When awards time comes (with the GGs being the only known exception), the dramas take up most of the nominations, and I don't think it's fair to compare Undercover Brother to The Pianist. One has you rolling on the floor laughing out loud, and the other one drains you of all emotion and energy for the rest of the day. Sure, laughing for a long time can drain you of your energy, but it's not the same.
     
  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    For me, Chris Kattan was the weak link in the chain (I guess I don't understand him). But as a whole, this was a laughout loud blast, defineately on my wishlist.
     
  11. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    Ron, in the end, comedy is just as important as drama, if not moreso. You can't really say one genre deserves distinction over another. I say from now on, go with your gut and put "Highly Recommended" on a movie if you feel it deserves it, no matter if it's a comedy, a drama, or Care Bears: The Movie. Just my opinion....of course my opinion is always right, doesn't mean you have to share it though [​IMG]
     
  12. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

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    Good review Ron, I'll be picking this one up. [​IMG]
     
  13. Angel Pagan

    Angel Pagan Second Unit

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  14. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    I agree... you can't compare the packages, and nor should you. If the package is solid and worthy of a purchase, then it should gain the "Highly Recommended" tag.

    Since I had to cross my legs to keep from pissing myself when watching this movie, and the extra package seems to be solid... but again, it's your call.

    Also: I agree about Austin Powers. I don't know ANYONE who saw that movie in the theaters... I don't even remember it comming out. I saw it on VHS back in the day, when by little brother came over to visit and it had his highest recommendation (this comming from a guy who loves Punk and thinks Dirty Work is high art...) but we both loved it, and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was one of my first dozen DVD purchases.
     
  15. Jedrek

    Jedrek Stunt Coordinator

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    The disc looks great, and I thought the movie was pretty darn funny - having Denise Richards in it helped too. I'd say its just as good as Goldmember (which I wasn't dissapointed in as much as others were). My sister wants to buy this, so I'll probably borrow it from her and check it out. [​IMG]
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    You guys fought well.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED this becomes!
     
  17. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Solid! [​IMG]
     
  18. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

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    Thanks for listening to the Ron. I'm a bit late to add my reasons, but I'm glad it's now "Highly Recommended". Word of mouth will do wonders for this film.
     
  19. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    I've just been informed by a friend that this movie is very funny.
    Given that, and this review, I think I'll rent it, even though it's not my usual cup of tea.
    What the hell...I laughed my ass off during Goldmember.
    [​IMG]
     
  20. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    It better be much, much funnier than Goldmember. I only cracked a smile once or twice... WAY too much time in the gross out, toilet humor mode. I hope they took a bit more of the high road in Undercover Brother.

    Dan
     

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