Heroes of the Zeroes: Undercover Brother
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Though born online long after his inner-city cinema forebears, Undercover Brother gave the Superfly set an animated superhero. His uproarious 2002 expansion into campy live-action could’ve been subtitled “When Aaron Met Austin.”
“Boondocks” creator Aaron MacGruder sees past race relations’ PC sanctimoniousness to lambaste when necessary. “Undercover Brother” does, too, coupled with an “Austin Powers”-esque affection for bygone kitsch.
Given Danielle Hollowell’s dazzlingly dated costumes and a Stanley Clarke score of wah-wah guitar and disco strings, even title-font serifs seem to sport Jheri curls.
Buckwheat by way of Jim Kelly, Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin) is recruited by the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. to combat The Man’s latest scheme to quell black culture — brainwashing a Colin Powell stand-in (Billy Dee Williams) into forgoing the presidency to franchise mind-controlling fried chicken.
Brother must fight lackey Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan, acting with sinuses and spazzing out to DMX) and white America’s allure.
In “Brother’s” second, and best, act, Griffin adapts nasal inflections — undercover like Urkel with a master’s and seduced by naïve, compliant Penelope (Denise Richards, aptly comic whether in on the joke or hopelessly out of it).
Not surprisingly, Malcolm D. Lee’s film fares better as a blaxploitation spoof than with its silly-spy shtick. Scathing but not scatological, “Brother’s” withering insights are equal opportunity: Here, trading on white guilt is as satirically punishable an offense as propping up prejudice.
The final 20 minutes deplete much of “Brother’s” mojo, but the preceding 60 are stuffed with terrific post-modern parody and blessed with “The Naked Gun’s” semi-automatic zest.