Is the new movie “Us” worth a date night this weekend? No, don’t waste your time.
This film is the followup to writer-director Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” It delivers some scares and occasional laughs, but the plot is alternately simplistic, convoluted, and ultimately illogical. Add in frequent hyper-violence and this is one film that’s more unsettling and annoying than it is entertaining.
Jordan Peele established himself as a comedic force to be reckoned with during five seasons of the Comedy Central sketch series “Key and Peele.” When that show came to an end, probably the last thing anyone ever expected he would do is give up acting and start writing and directing horror thrillers.
Yet that’s exactly what he did with “Get Out.” The 2017 film brilliantly melded Hitchcockian suspense with moments of sheer terror. It had quite a few belly laughs from sharp racial-tension satire to boot. The result was a massive hit, earning $173 million domestically off a $9 million budget. It also boasts a Best Picture nomination, as well as a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Peele.
“Us” has more frights and less laughs
Now Peele is back with his follow-up effort, “Us.” Peele promised the film would be even more terrifying and somewhat less focused on gaining laughs. The big question is, can he pull off anywhere near the same level of success this time?
Unfortunately, despite some great elements, it’s a big disappointment. Even more sadly, the biggest part of its problems is a simpleminded, largely illogical screenplay.
The film starts off in 1986. Viewers watch a young African-American girl named Adelaide wander off from her parents at the famously creepy Santa Cruz Boardwalk’s amusement park during the weekend of the Hands Across America anti-hunger fundraiser. She enters a house of mirrors and stumbles into a reflection of herself that scares her so much, she is unable to speak for weeks afterward.
Cut to present day, and Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is a beautiful and seemingly confident wife to her husband Gabe (Winston Duke). She’s the mother to preteen daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Evan Alex). Gabe insists on taking the family to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the childhood vacation house of Adelaide, unaware of her past trauma there.
Adelaide warily goes along with the trip. But she keeps noticing that things seem “off” everywhere she looks. On their first night in the house, Gabe notices a family of four in the shadows on the edge of their driveway. When he tries to scare them off, they instead rampage towards the house. This sets off a night of abject terror that is heightened when the family realizes their attackers are also their ruthlessly evil doppelgangers.
Plot twists and revelations that go nowhere
This may sound like a cool premise. The trailers have had “Get Out” fans buzzing with excitement for weeks. But the problem is, once Peele establishes the setup of a decent family forced to confront their literal dark side, it really doesn’t go anywhere for far too long.
Instead, viewers are treated to a seemingly unending series of chases and fights. Both families use all manner of household objects to pummel, stab and otherwise puncture each other in hideous and sometimes funny ways. When they realize that their only nearby friends have also been attacked by evil versions of themselves, the tension and mystery should become more intriguing.
Instead, it literally goes nowhere, until after at least an hour of mayhem. That’s when Adelaide finally goes back into the haunted house of mirrors and uncovers the truth of what’s been happening all along. The answers are confusing and illogical at best. They’re disappointingly ridiculous at worst and give audiences almost literally nothing to care about.
This is a stunning fall for Peele. He’s trying to make a commentary about our light and dark sides, as well as class warfare. But it has none of the punch and effectiveness of “Get Out.”
In fact, by the end you’ll be wishing you had just decided to get out and enjoy life in the real world instead.
Overall: 5.5 out of 10
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.