Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson's case, by shouting out one word - SHAZAM. - this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.
In order to get away from their busy lives, the Wilson family takes a vacation to Santa Cruz, California with the plan of spending time with their friends, the Tyler family. On a day at the beach, their young son Jason almost wanders off, causing his mother Adelaide to become protective of her family. That night, four mysterious people break into Adelaide's childhood home where they're staying. The family is shocked to find out that the intruders look like them, only with grotesque appearances.Written by
Bold Ideas, Great Acting but the Final Product is Decidedly Mixed
The movie you think you're going to get with Us and the movie you end up getting are two different things. Normally that's a problem but I think it works
in their favour. If the movie was too formulaic or too obtuse, that would be one thing but it's clear that Jordan Peele has his own ideas and they're original enough to catch your attention. I wasn't a fan of every one of them but this movie isn't afraid to do its own thing and I have to credit Peele and his team for trying something new and being confident enough to bring it to the screen with a lot of fanfare.
One of the things I was more surprised by was the amount of comedy in Us. The trailer billed it as more of a straight horror movie. This movie is actually pretty funny when they try to be, from Gabe's corny jokes to the Tyler family's selfish behaviour, I laughed more than a few times. They also have a couple of choice references in there that made me smile. However, I don't think the movie is as carefully balanced as the best horror/comedies are. There were a few times where the audience I saw this with were laughing through some of more tense moments (the "Tethered" largely speak in grunts and the theatre I saw this in was giggling whenever one of them had to communicate) and it came of as unintentional. Us is never particularly horrifying but it is an effective thriller. So the team were able to play in both genres effectively but the tone of the movie shifts and its not always an easy transition.
The best thing about both of Jordan Peele's efforts as a writer/director is that he knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Lupita Nyong'o was excellent in her dual roles here. She's best known for her turn in 12 Years a Slave or as Maz Katana in the Disney Star Wars movies but there were moments in this where I was astonished at the job she was doing. She shines the brightest in a cast where everyone pulled their weight. Winston Duke was a lot of fun as a dorky dad, I thought he was pretty funny and he pulled off the physical work in the part. I thought the two kid actors, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora/Umbrae and Evan Alex as Jason/Pluto were both capable and did solid work. Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker were decent as the Tylers, they're characters were jerks but they played them fairly well.
Now I've got to get to what didn't work for me. I have a hard time with movies where the story turns or the creative team make decisions where they are deliberately obtuse for the sake of creating a "metaphor" or leaning into some "symbolism." People make excuses for filmmakers saying "it doesn't have to make sense" or "you get what you want out of it" but there has to be an effort to make things palatable or to try and bring the audience in (I had the same problem with the 2018 Suspiria remake). The fact that they wanted to do different things is admirable but several moments in the climax and the denouement of Us don't add up. I can't go into spoiling the movie and I do think that a movie that encourages debate is something that we need more of. I also think that no movie is ever perfect, you can always find something to nitpick or whine about. But I couldn't always just take what Us spoon fed me, there's so much to question and the film doesn't even try to answer or provide a way to the audience so they can figure it out. Maybe you'll feel differently but to just tell me to shrug it off is lazy and just an excuse (Peele has also done this better in Get Out, there's no deep explanation into the procedure but the way they presented it, I was fine that there wasn't a point by point explanation). I'd also note the final note in this movie is decidedly dark and while I liked it, I don't know if it's going to hold up to further scrutiny.
I wanted Us to be something special, I liked Get Out but I also thought the praise that movie got heaped upon it was a little excessive. It was really good but to call it a "masterpiece" seemed a little hyperbolic. So I went into the theatre hoping that this would be that striking and bold movie that I could fall in love with to hop on the Jordan Peele train. There's a lot of big ideas in Us and I thought the acting was very impressive (especially from Nyong'o) but this movie seems to play by its own rules only when it wants to, they explain so little without providing the requisite bread crumbs to follow along and while the movie has its share of funny material and thrilling moments, I didn't think they meshed well together. Peele is an exciting new filmmaker who isn't afraid to take chances or try something different. I look forward to more movies from him but I still haven't got that can't miss, have-to-see-it film yet from him (that's only my opinion). I liked Us enough to give it a 7/10 but I can't go any higher than that.
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