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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes - 31 minutes worth!
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Music video - Snoop Dogg
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Documentaries - Making of
  • Outtakes
  • Alternate ending
  • Short film - Internet Animation

Undercover Brother

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 82 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I wanted to write this review in the hip slang of the film, but it sounded too uncool when I did it. When the Brother does it however, you got yerself one superfly movie, dawg. Ahem.

"You mess wit da Ďfro... You got to go!"

Undercover Brother is one dude who donít take no guff from nobody. When the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. enlist his help to fight the evil forces of The Man, hilarity naturally ensues. The Man, tired of black culture, is attempting to brainwash all black folks into acting like white folks through the sale of drugged fried chicken. With myriad jokes at the expense of big business, political correctness, white folks, black folks, multinationals, fast food chains, the í70s, TV and more, it can sometimes be hard to catch all the references being alluded to. Whilst this doesnít detract from the film experience, it can act as mud in the path of a smooth running film. With things running for just 82 minutes, there isnít room for much plot, but what plot exists is really just a vehicle to carry the wide variety of jabs at popular culture and society so far past the American Civil War, but yet still so close.

At times the jokes are a little clumsy, but this could easily be attributed to the relatively unknown cast working with possibly uncomfortable material. Whilst not a racial film, it does lean heavily on its tokenism ticket at times, yet isnít a white-bashing feature. With the intent of striking a blow for equality, itís not always clear if there is a serious point being made or the creators are just having fun with the medium and this tends to cause too much thinking in what is essentially a no-brainer movie. Even whilst serious points are being made, the element of fun does maintain equilibrium enough to carry us through to the next series of gags, but leaves us with social issues worthy of more thought. Perhaps its delivery denies us the impact of its point, and therefore is wasting its time and resources. Being that there are no really familiar faces in the leads, we have no clue as to personal ideals from the cast, so are left to consider our own beliefs, which is great, though doesnít encourage us enough to follow them up. This being said, the new(ish) cast do bring an energy to the film and a seeming passion for fun that encompasses the whole feature. The laughs are frequent, there are no outrageously offensive racial digs and the clothes are very cool indeed.

Both think piece and comedy, Undercover Brotherís point is made, but with comedy dominant Iím not sure many people will necessarily hear it.

  Video
Contract

With the entire film an homage to Blaxploitation of the í70s, there is a delicious TV feel to the film whilst utilising the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen for the modern age of home cinema enthusiasts. The colours are very dynamic, with garish purples and oranges at every turn coming across to DVD in fantastic style. The costuming is absolutely great, with wide collars and vinyl all over the place helping generate the Shaft-like atmosphere in our modern world.

There are a couple of aliasing issues around and about, but nothing too worrysome or unwatchable and for the most part the picture is quite clear. Shadows are mostly black with good detail, but do lean toward greenism on the odd occasion.

With computer-generated animation, there are two distinct categories in this feature Ė really good and really cheesy. The good stuff is so good as to be almost invisible (as all good computer generated effects should be), but the cheesy stuff, I suspect, is deliberately cheesy. Iím talking about The Manís island lair, mostly, as it looks like a computer version of something youíd see in The Thunderbirds or an old James Bond film. It contributes to the í70s feel anyway, so it isnít too bad and again, I suspect deliberate.

  Audio
Contract

Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 can be the sweetest words on a DVD case, particularly when the soundtrack is as kick-arse as this one. With some classic soul music and the incomparable James Brown performing live, the music in this movie is simply superb. Who said James Brown was dead? Not me!

The dialogue is always clear, which is helpful for us white folk not hip enough to speak the black jargon used extensively throughout the film. Itís very funny watching the white cast using some extremely uncharacteristic black jargon and it has been handled cleverly and with good grace by the cast and sound engineers.

The sound effects are for the most part great, and this even includes the use of stock sound effects because theyíve been used in context and as a vehicle for more laughs. They also lend more to the í70s TV show theme that is usually running behind the action. All up the sound has been handled perfectly and is very impressive, particularly regarding the fabulous music in the film.

  Extras
Contract

There's a passel of extras to get through here, so be patient. Firstly there are two Audio Commentaries, one with Director Malcolm D. Lee and the second with the Undercover Bruvver hisself, Eddie Griffin. Both have their moments of interest, but I feel would have been better combined with the two guys bouncing info off each other. A 22 minute 'Making of' Documentary is usual TV fare of short scenes, a few sound bite interviews and a sell job.

31 minutes of Deleted Scenes with commentary follow and these are quite good and well worth checking out. Being an 82 minute film, naturally there must have been tons chopped, and so itís good to get to see this stuff (I didnít mention it earlier, but 82 minutes is pretty much a perfect length here as the joke is kinda running thin by the end. Kudos to the producers for this insight). Four and a half minutes of Outtakes follow and are the usual Ďpeople tripping over linesí and nothing really exceptional. One highlight I expected was the Animated Shorts lifted from the Internet and stuck together to make a 20 minute extravaganza. Nup. Pretty weak actually. What works on the Internet just doesnít cut it on a TV.

A Snoop Dogg Music Video is also included, as are Trailers for Hulk(will it ever get released?) and Johnny English. Lastly, there is the Alternate Ending which promises more than it delivers and whilst funny, is better off as an extra.

  Overall  
Contract

Watching Neil Patrick Harris (TVís Doogie Howser) go from cynical white guy to enlightened sympathiser is quite funny and his drug experience is all the more so, but his role is kinda wasted here. However, Undercover Brother does contain its share of laughs, but as is usually the case with films of this nature the joke will go straight over most peopleís heads. There is a clever vein running through this movie that is worth the look and isnít hard to spot, but by the same token isnít all encompassing.

As far as a DVD goes, this is a well-packaged mixed bag that will create many discussions over content and intent and will remain a good backup film to rewatch in time.

Iíll let The Brother have the last word... Solid!


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      And I quote...
    "Ohhhh yeah. Solid. (And other slang jargonese)"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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