They Cloned Tyrone

Bring on the conspiracy and attitude!

John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx all make a dream team in the Netflix satire “They Cloned Tyrone.” In the post “Get Out” era, the film pokes fun at conspiracy theories aimed at the black community. It’s all in the fried chicken, the grape soda, and basically any place you can find an African-American. Each scene can be funny or political, depending on how you view the outcome.

Boyega plays a drug dealer named Fontaine, who gets killed, while Foxx plays a pimp named Slick Charles, and Parris plays his employee named Yo-Yo, who are both surprised to see that he is still alive. Even Fontaine is surprised by the situation, and he’s the one who in a “Groundhog Day” loop.

These three find themselves dealing with one conspiracy theory after another (featuring David Alan Grier and Kiefer Sutherland in the mix), regarding African-Americans being experimented on, and hidden elevator doors in convenient stores and motel rooms, etc. And there’s even a cloning program, meaning that maybe the Fontaine they’re talking to is a copy.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about “They Cloned Tyrone” is the way they photograph it in the style of a blaxploitation film. It’s all shot so muggy and yet, so stylish, as if we need to bring back the attitude. And we do.

And the dialogue, clothes, and cars are able to have a retro vibe, especially when combined with science and comedy.

It’s the kind of comedy that the late Melvin Van Peebles or Spike Lee or Jordan Peele would appreciate. Maybe even Quentin Tarantino. It’s all based on the words, themes, violence, music, and tone. And I loved the way they use Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” in a lab scene.

In the same summer, we also got the theatrical release of “The Blackening,” which poked fun at the genre about black characters surviving a night of horror. Unfortunately, that didn’t do much business at the box office, probably because of how Lionsgate sold it to the public, but I still thought it was brilliant on almost every level.

The same can apply for “They Cloned Tyrone,”which makes its way to Netflix, a place where it can easily become a hit, especially when it features more well-known leads like Boyega and Foxx. These two and Parris all have the kind of chemistry in a conspiracy comedy that Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington expressed so poorly in “Amsterdam.” These three leads are written with dangerous vibes by Juel Taylor (making his directorial debut) and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier, whose previous collaborations include the awful “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and the good natured “Shooting Stars.”

The ending, which I won’t give away, is so fresh and challenging, that it really tests our senses and draws us into the imagination. But really, it aims for the right target audience, who can see what’s wrong with society, which can repeat history. This is the kind of conspiracy comedy where you’re able to root for Boyega, Parris, and Foxx to kick some booty, and show science who’s boss. Or whoever is running this system.

“They Cloned Tyrone” is one of the summer’s most ambitiously entertaining movies, especially when it finds a spot in select movie theaters and on Netflix. It’s all because of Boyega, Parris, Foxx, Taylor, and Rettenmaier.

One more question: “Who’s Tyrone?” That’s for the filmmakers to know and us to find out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Now Playing in Select Theaters

Streaming on Netflix This Friday

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: Action, comedy, Mystery, Sci Fi

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