Friday Movie Review – “No”

In the new movie, NopeJordan Peele once again shows his flair for pop culture history and for placing his African American heroes in unconventional situations.

Two adult siblings, OJ Haywood and his sister Thelma, inherited a horse ranch in Southern California. Their father, a veteran trainer and wrestler for movies and television, died when a strange cascade of debris rained down from the sky.

Their ranch is located near Agua Dulce, the actual filming location for many westerns, and some star trek episodes. The siblings suspect a UFO is lurking above their valley, and Thelma thinks if they can get clear photographic evidence, they’ve hit the jackpot. And she means, the “bring it to Oprah” kind of jackpot.

But OJ comes to believe that their career isn’t some high-tech flying saucer from galaxies far, far away. He’s a predator, lurking in the clouds as surely as Bruce the shark hid under the waves.

Jordan Peele caused a stir with get out the surprise success of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. He followed that up with We. Both films evoked primal fears, but also dealt with ideas about racial and class divisions.

Peele also knows how to engage us with the likable main characters before the plot kicks in.

In this new film, British actor Daniel Kaluuya is transformed into a tough cowboy who is a man of few words (hence the film’s title). Keke Palmer is her outgoing sister.

Also in the cast, Steven Yeun (of The Walking Dead) plays Skirt, the owner of a Western-town theme park who also wants to lure the UFO. It has a creepier backstory than the alien plot.

As a child actor, Jupe starred in a 90s family sitcom centered around a cute chimpanzee. But during a live studio recording, the chimpanzee went mad at the sound of a popping balloon, and the results were gruesome. (Kids, that didn’t really happen, but the lesson is to be careful what you’re playing with, whether the creature is big or small.)

The plot also involves two other people who join the Haywoods, an electronics store geek and a fatalistic director; references to the history of silent cinema but also to the new song of the 60s “Pied Purple People Eater”; and the heroes attracting the monster by setting up an array of those inflatable “tube men” familiar from used car lots.

Nope is a good summer thriller. It will make you nervous to look at fluffy clouds. But the climax lasts too long. And the thrills aren’t as touching as in previous Peele films.

Yet what I detect here is three and a half stars out of five. And it’s not swamp gas.

About Debra D. Johnson

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