By Dwight Hobbes
Here’s a do-it-yourself DVD double feature for you, if chuckalicious, rib-tickling comedy is right up your alley, whether as usual fare or just a change of pace: Next Day Air and Undercover Brother. If you don’t own either one, this is a great excuse to request them at your local library, or a perfect reason to use your rent-a-film account.
Whatever, set aside an afternoon or evening, pop the corn, pour some soda and sit back.
Next Day Air, a raucous romp, is, it bears noting, not quite family entertainment, rated R because of foul language, explicit drug content, and no nudity but some frank sexuality. So, watch this one without little kids around. But, for the breezy script, sharp acting and crisp directing, do watch it.
Ace, boyishly charming knucklehead Donald Faison (Scrubs, The Bernie Mac Show) stars as Leo the loopy, herb-addled courier for delivery service NDA (Next Day Air). Blithely bopping through his workday in a pungent haze, Leo unwittingly sets a world of calamity in motion — by dropping a drug kingpin’s package off at the wrong address.
Fool par excellence Mike Epps (All about the Benjamins, Soul Men) and straight man Wood Harris (The Wire, Remember the Titans) play two of the world’s worst stick-up artists who now plan a career upgrade. They’re going to wholesale the package that dropped in their laps to Epp’s cousin and get rich.
A snag: Their neighbors in the apartment down the hall, to whom the delivery should’ve been made, work for a scary boss — who slits throats without compunction and is coming to track down his missing merchandise. Okay, so drug trafficking is an unsavory subject. If you can take that with a grain of salt, the fine cast — which also includes Mos Def, Lauren London, Debbie Allen, and a delightfully feisty Yasmin Deliz — will keep in hysterics, snapping off wry, dry dialogue with director Benny Boon
doing a beautiful job.
If Next Day Air simply rubs you the wrong way, well then, skip it and go straight to Undercover Brother, which will leave you, the young’uns, even the family pets laughing yourselves sick. Tongue-in-cheek satire laced with biting social comment, Undercover Brother is a masterstroke of sheer, non-stop hilarity.
Anyone who remembers The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can joyfully snicker at top-secret agency B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., loosely modeled after the old TV show, including an uproarious spoof on how Solo and Ilya used to pass through a tailor shop into the back room and take an elevator miles below the surface to a super-duper, fancy-dance operational layout.
If you’re too young to remember TV that long ago, ask your mama. At any rate, there’s more than enough originality to Undercover Brother to get a kick out of if you never even heard of TV.
Here’s the storyline: Insidious powers that have slipped a presidential candidate and Colin Powell-like figure (Billy Dee Williams) a mickey and brainwashed him into leading a campaign to help roll back social progress. The idea is to keep soul folk so busy smackin’ their lips, gobbling “Nappy Meals” at his fried chicken joints, slurping malt liquor and otherwise living as stereotypes, there’s no interest in actually having a life.
Enter our hero, Anton “Undercover Brother” Jackson, maverick force for truth, justice and soul power, recruited by B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. to save the day. Will he and special B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. operative Sistah Girl (Anjuanue Ellis) succeed in their daring mission to undermine “The Man?” Will Undercover Brother succumb to the wiles of an eye-candy blonde a/k/a “the black man’s kryptonite, White She-Devil” (Denise Richards)? And will they rescue kidnapped James Brown (played by himself) before the Godfather of Soul is stripped of — oh, no! Say it ain’t so! — all his Blackness?
While you won’t grip the sides of your chair leaning on the edge of your seat to find out, you will howl your hind parts off. Malcolm D. Lee deftly directs this no-hold-barred-no-cows-held-sacred yuckfest.
They may not make movies like they used to, but every once in a while they sure do make ’em fun.