Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Ahhhh…. Who doesn’t love a good sketch comedy? I know I do. Just recently I saw the sketch comedy flick ‘The Onion Movie’ which I personally thought had some seriously funny moments, but like a lot of these types of movies it also had some serious dead spots in which humor couldn’t be unearthed with a fork lift. Still, it was more than funny enough for me to recommend it. Today from Detroit home boy Gary Hardwick, who has given us a pair of above average films in ‘The Brothers’ and ‘Deliver us From Eva’ – if you’re reading this Gary you might want to ask Gabrielle why she’s not returning my calls – we have the completely inappropriate racially charged sketch comedy ‘Universal Remote’. Similar to ‘The Onion Movie’ there’s some seriously funny moments to be had here, but also similar to that previously mentioned movie, this one isn’t beyond the occasional groaner either.

Our film opens with a pair of simple interracial good ol’ boys marveling at their good fortune at finding a fancy TV set with a fancy remote control seemingly spun from gold. Good fortune turns into misfortune when one of the good ol’ boys presses a button on the remote and just like Jack Tripper and Mindy McConnell in that movie ‘Stay Tuned’ from way back in the day, these two find themselves trapped in the world of bad television.

The sketches start out with three nattily dressed Caucasian males busting a rhyme entitled ‘White Guys’ which details every possible theory and conspiracy that we have surrounding ‘The Man’. Now while the rap these cats spouted was clever and funny, the beats and style which encased these lyrics was… shall we say… dated. Seriously, 1983 called and they want their hip-hop back. Even Whodini left a message mentioning that perhaps those beats could use a little freshening.

With that somewhat whack rap out of the way, we travel from skit to skit to varying degrees of humorous success featuring game shows, public service announcements, news flashes, commercials and even a fairly well done animation. The featured players in these skits star some pretty well known comic actors such as the now ubiquitous Charlie Murphy – who is like everywhere, That original Mad TV brother, Robert Hayes of ‘Airplane’ fame who we are overjoyed to see that he is still alive, that cat that played the hologram doctor on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ who very well could have provided the movie with its funniest moment, and Jill Marie Jones whom I know all too well due to my wife’s insistence on watching the wretched ‘Girlfriends’ every single freaking night. Call me Jill – thinking about you. The majority of these skits are based on some kind of racial stereotype and there’s a good chance that almost all of them have the ability to offend on some level or another, though that would be point of this whole exercise. Eventually our interracial pair of good ol’ boys will figure out, or at least the white good ol’ boy will figure out how to get our pair home and out of the hell that is TV land sketch comedy.

Like watching any sketch comedy routine, say an episode of MadTV or something along those lines, the comedy in ‘Universal Remote’ is hit or miss, but it does have more hits than misses plus it’s trying to lay down on a heavy social message in the interim, if you really give a damn. ‘Another Bitch’, the game show skit, the Black gospel choir running gag and the exploration of the destruction of American sports due to the dilution of the African American athletic gene due to the Black athletes aversion to Black women are among some of the funnier skits while the pimp my white boy spoof ‘Thugged Out’ and the animated ‘That Darn Jesus’ probably weren’t nearly as funny as they were supposed to be. The remainder of the skits, and there were quite a few of them, fall somewhere in between but like we said, the majority of the movie was pretty darned entertaining though I don’t know if there will be ever be a good time to tell a 9-11 joke.  70 years later, you still don't see too many Pearl Harbor jokes.

Despite the presence of a few named actors, Hardwick mostly uses unknown talents for the majority of the skits and his young talented cast of comic actors do acquit themselves quite well, though we were most fond of Nefetari Spencer as ‘The Slapper’ and we do hope this film launches this young woman on her way toward her rightful place as a superstar. Call me Nefetari – thinking about you.

All in all ‘Universal Remote’ is a very silly, somewhat offensive, often funny comedy that only occasionally misses its mark. True it misses pretty badly when it misses, but this is to be expected from this kind of film. Still it hit more than enough for me to have a damn good time watching it, and if you aren’t easily offended, chances are it’ll give you some enjoyment too.

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