How High [2001]

Undercover BrotherBlaxploitation movies deserve a good spoofing, and Undercover Brother tweaks the subgenre with a few good laughs. But what might have been an Afro-centric Austin Powers (adapted by John Ridley from his Internet film series) is instead a lackluster comedy with one basic joke: "Whitey"--personified as a faceless corporate despot known as "the Man"--has the power, but black folks have soul. With enough funk to make Shaft look passé, Eddie Griffin plays "U.B." with an oversized 'fro and a firm grasp of comedic possibilities. He's recruited by the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. (an all-black justice league) to foil the Man's plan to derail a Colin Powell-like presidential candidate (Billy Dee Williams), and U.B.'s undercover exploits keep the slim plot moving. Denise Richards and Neil Patrick Harris are gamely ridiculed as token white allies, and it's all in good fun as director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike's cousin) finds room for mild jolts of relevant social commentary. --Jeff Shannon How HighGrab your favorite munchies, kids. Red and Meth, that dope-addled dynamic duo, are going to Harvard! And while it's not an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, How High is destined to become a guilty pleasure of the cannabis crowd. The plot's a familiar one--take the basic selling points of any Cheech & Chong movie (a pair of shambolic protagonists who smoke lots of weed while slinging slang and driving funky, '70s-style cars), graft them onto a generic "raising hell on campus" teen movie scenario, and shake vigorously. The result is a prosaic effort that does contain some all-too-brief moments of genuine humor. Red and Meth, a.k.a. Redman and Method Man, may look like the world's oldest freshmen, but both offer genial performances, especially Method Man, who imbues the character of Silas with a dog-eared gentleness that raises him above the film's leaden script and plasticine directing. --Rebecca Levine

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