Us

The internet is packed with theories about what Us “means” and there are countless explanations of what the compulsory twist at the end signifies. My apologies, but any movie that requires endless speculation about what it “means” hasn’t done a very good job of speaking for itself.

I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre, and I don’t care for home invasion movies. So, a home invasion movie featuring ostensibly supernatural bad guys starts with two strikes against it, in my book.

Unfortunately, Us has so many strikes going against it that two more make no difference.

This is a minority opinion in a big way. Us opened to record-breaking box office last weekend and has been getting superlative reviews, at least from critics if somewhat less so from audiences.

The internet is packed with theories about what Us “means” and there are countless explanations of what the compulsory twist at the end signifies. My apologies, but any movie that requires endless speculation about what it “means” hasn’t done a very good job of speaking for itself.

There was heavy-duty social commentary in director/screenwriter Jordan Peele’s masterpiece, Get Out. The difference is, we didn’t require an army of self-appointed experts to tell us what it meant. The message was what the movie was about and it was conveyed brilliantly.

The biggest problem with Us is that it’s just not that interesting. After a creepy and comparatively fun setup, the movie degenerates into a pedestrian chase scene. Bad guys chase people, bad guys kill some people, rinse repeat for over an hour.

There are mid-movie twists that are intriguing, but inevitably we end up right back where we started.

The grand finale twist that has all the folks who spend their time at the latest Marvel Studios offering hyperventilating is OK, but didn’t leave anyone in the audience gasping. The general reaction I saw was a group shrug.

Basically, the plot centers around doppelgangers who want to replace us in our lives. We fight them for a looong, slooow time with mixed results. These are special zombies, but bottom line, they’re zombies

I never did figure out if the experiment that created them created millions of them, or if it was a localized project. If you were to undertake an experiment that could bring on the apocalypse, doesn’t it seem reasonable to begin with test subjects to see how things go? I think that’s one of the plot points Peele left for the critics to flesh out for him.

If there are a few thousand, or even several million zombies, I still don’t see a problem. Other than Adelaide, they aren’t very bright, their communication skills are severely limited and their weapons of choice are household shears.

People don’t turn into zombies when they’re killed, so the number of bad guys is finite. One Apache Helicopter with a mounted .50 caliber should take care of the matter.

Also, the explanations for why zombies even exist and what happened to the scientists who created them are glossed over in a casual manner. How they survived isn’t critical to the story other than that they provide bad guys who chase our heroes.

A recurring reference to Jeremiah 11:11 is kick-ass Old Testament, but it explains nothing about what’s going on. It appears to repeat simply because it’s kick-ass Old Testament.

Lupita Nyong’o is a true movie star and her spunky Adelaide is a heroine worth rooting for. Winston Duke as her husband, Gabe, gets the majority of amusing lines, of which there are many. The two just don’t have much to do besides run from zombies.

Gabe also gets the silliest scene in the movie. You all know those hoary, “Oh, God, don’t go in there” tropes; the cliched scenes where the hero turns his back on the “drowned” monster in the bathtub who’s not really drowned. There’s a scene like this in every horror movie of the past half-century.

Gabe! When you’re fleeing a monster and have almost made it into the boat, get in the damn boat! Don’t leave one foot dangling in the water for no apparent reason. That’s behavior we expect from Muffy the cheerleader at the haunted cabin on the lake during the 10th anniversary of the mass-murder in every Friday the 13th.

And, how the hell does badly injured Duke escape from a monster who’s been continuously portrayed as powerful, aggressive and homicidal? He just does, because we need him in future scenes. The movie cuts from the two thrashing about in the water to Gabe in the boat rescuing his family on the dock with no explanation.

The rest of the cast is essentially an assemblage of stock characters; disaffected teen daughter, smart-ass little brother, smarmy neighbors. They all take turns chasing, or getting chased by zombies. Does making them multi-racial make them special?

There seems to be a pack mentality around this movie, at least among critics, of “OMG it’s Jordan Peele!!” I went into Us hoping it was a fitting encore for Get Out. That’s not what I got.

This is the point for the obligatory “Jordan Peele’s a genius” paragraph. Actually, it’s not much of an obligation. Get Out was brilliant, one of the finest movies of this decade, and I’ve been a fan of Key and Peele for a long time.

But not every album is Revolver. Even geniuses are allowed an occasional “Rocky Raccoon.”

Ed says: **

Currently playing in wide release

Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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(2) comments

rs shakir

I did like Jordan Peele. Then he went all M. Night Shymalan on me.

Rob Burgess

I haven't seen Us yet, but really enjoyed Get Out. Still looking forward to checking this one out.