The standard biopic plotline based on the life story of Carl Brashear follows the uneducated sharecropper's son (Gooding) as he braves 1950s-era racial discrimination for the right to risk his life in one of the most dangerous occupations in the armed services. At the Navy's elite salvage school in New Jersey master diver Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) gives Brashear the "Officer and a Gentleman" treatment singling him out for special punishment at the request of the base's insane racist commander (Hal Holbrook). Will the hero overcome the obstacles in his path to becoming a master diver himself?
Gooding's glowing likability is the main factor keeping the film's saintly conception of Brashear from getting annoying fast. The one-dimensional character lacks a single flaw for an actor to grab onto but Gooding's enthusiasm is contagious (remember that Oscar speech?) and he gets surprising mileage out of it. De Niro's trademark intensity is put to only minimal use in a variation of the cantankerous drill sergeant part familiar from half the military flicks ever made.
George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food") delivers some effective if obvious action-drama in the film's first half which chronicles Brashear's tireless efforts to earn his Navy flippers. Unfortunately Scott Marshall Smith's screenplay gets a bit water-logged dealing with the hero's subsequent career both above and below the waves. (One key development closely parallels John Wayne's role as a Navy flier in another true story 1957's "The Wings of Eagles.) All this sets up a particularly weak courtroom finale reminiscent of another slew of movies including "A Few Good Men" and "Rules of Engagement."
Undercover Brother revolves around the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. an organization that believes in the virtues of truth justice and the African-American way; that is bringing back the funky vibe of the '70s. Their headquarters is headed by a burly guy referred to as The Chief (Chi McBride) whose main objective is to bring down The Man the one responsible for keeping the White House white by turning the nation's first black Colin Powell-type presidential candidate into a fried chicken spokesman. To do so the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. enlists the help of Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin) a cool cat who doubling as the mild-mannered Anton Jackson infiltrates a multinational conglomerate. Attempting to thwart their efforts are the enemies Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) and the sultry White She Devil (Denise Richards). Undercover Brother is a feature movie based an animated Web series by the wittingly poetic John Ridley. The result is an outlandish spoof of 1970s blaxploitation films like Foxy Brown and Superfly complete with characters like Sistah Girl Conspiracy Brother and Smart Brother--the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.'s equivalent to James Bond's M.
The film's casting stayed fairly true to the Internet featurette upon which it's based including Eddie Griffin (The New Guy) who fills U.B.'s shoes fittingly well: He's surprisingly suave a little arrogant and utterly hilarious. Aunjanue Ellis (The Caveman's Valentine) plays his partner Sistah Girl and definitely has some really great lines in the film especially when it comes to insulting U.B. Chris Kattan (Corky Romano) is The Man's right-hand guy who is in a perpetual state of indecision about his own whiteness. Although his physical antics are amusing his character is too cartoonish and hard to relate to. As the evil temptress White She Devil Denise Richards (Valentine) looks as though she's having a great time especially when she's singing "Ebony and Ivory" at a karaoke bar with U.B.: she literally looks like she is about to crack up. However it's Dave Chappelle's (Screwed) character Conspiracy Brother that's the funniest by far. Always convinced there is a hidden meaning in everything he liberally peppers his dialogue with such phrases as "so-called " "aka " and "quote-unquote."
Ridley is no stranger to comedy. He has performed stand-up on the David Letterman Show written for TV shows like Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and written several novels including Stray Dogs on which Oliver Stone's U-Turn was based. Suffice it to say Undercover Brother is big on laughs and takes jabs at everything and everyone including affirmative action O.J. Simpson and interracial relationships offending across the board without ever resorting to gross-out vulgar humor. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man) the film has a gut-busting final showdown scene done in Enter the Dragon style where Mr. Feather cuts a wedge out of U.B.'s afro sending him into a frenzy--all to the tune of "Beat It." The movie is also packed with funny and imaginative gimmicks throughout like using plastic afro picks as weapons or carrying "afro shine" in case of a high-speed car chase. This comedy proves that any spoof done well can reinvent a tired genre.