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Netflix's ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Learned the Right Lessons From ‘Get Out’

By Lindsay Traves | Film | July 21, 2023 |

By Lindsay Traves | Film | July 21, 2023 |


Get Out didn’t invent Black horror nor horror as a social commentary, but after its immense success, a slew of projects came down the pipeline looking to emulate it. There was a lot of “Get out but for this group ” or “Get Out but this time period” each to varying success, all just scented like Peele’s opus. Now there’s They Cloned Tyrone, a science fiction comedy dressed up as Blaxploitation with a new social commentary and a fresh way of delivering it.

John Boyega stars as the scrubby drug dealer, Fontaine, who spends his time hanging out by the liquor shop, collecting drug money, and mourning his younger brother. Fontaine is shot one night after failing to collect his money from Slick (Jamie Foxx), then soon wakes up and tries to collect his money again in a reverse Groundhog Day that has everyone else insisting he’s lived this day before. Certain he just saw Fontaine come for his money and then get shot dead, Slick takes him on a ride with Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) and the three inadvertently stumble across a much bigger conspiracy than was ever discovered by Nancy Drew. The accidental trio follow their noses into a house, down an elevator, into a lab, to Fontaine’s corpse, and down the rabbit hole. Outnumbered but not outgunned, they step up to uncover the truth and protect their community.

This is the full feature directorial debut for Creed II scribe, Juel Taylor, who cowrote with Tony Rettenmaier. What they’ve created is a vivacious though sometimes grim tale of a Black experience as tailored by white overlords. There are a few too many twists and turns that muddy what could have been a simple message. If you felt strained by the third act exposition in Us, you might feel stranded in similar territory. While it sometimes sacrifices momentum for driving its premise into the ground, They Cloned Tyrone remains engaging with its tone and visual watchability.

The film uses texture and technique to create a compelling visual style. There are hints of Blaxploitation in the look, made more interesting by its grainy appearance oft lit by magenta and blue neons like the color out of Lovecraft’s space. While the film doesn’t live and die by its appearance, it does by its tone. By balancing the comedy (through a creative use of landing the three leads on different parts of the comic relief spectrum) with the science fiction and bleak commentary, They Cloned Tyrone not only succeeds in crafting a fun-to-watch movie, it also stands as its own film not bound to emulating its cohorts in style.

While it’s easy to compare it to the features referenced above, it’s also reminiscent of stories like Mega Time Squad and The World’s End by virtue of having regular Joes tackle an out-of-this-world presence, stand strongly in the face of it, and deliver the laughs that come with tackling a massive entity with a handgun or beer bottle. These stories ultimately come down to the ingenuity and power of the everyman, and that’s what makes them so charming.

The entire cast shines but this movie belongs to Boyega. He gave a more reserved heroic performance for his breakout role in Attack the Block and this is both a shift and return to form. Though he’s taken on more bombastic characters of late, this allows him to play the reserved regular Joe hero, whose glances contain the whole world. It’s a joy to see Teyonah Parris be fluttering and funny on the other side of a Marvel turn, and it’s always nice to be reminded of how strong Foxx is at being cheesy.

They Cloned Tyrone goes a bit too far down its own hole, but it remains a delightful and watchable science fiction comedy oozing with social satire. It might fly on wings made of modern Black horror, but it walks its own fresh path. By not shying away from the realities of racial injustice and relations in America, it makes the points it sets out to. While it sometimes loses itself to the impulse to drive every part of its point home, They Cloned Tyrone takes real-life, worthy conversations, and turns them into a hilarious and thrilling romp that “sends a ghost to a pimp.”

They Cloned Tyrone hits Netflix July 21, 2021

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ wouldn’t exist.