Genre filmmaking is truly a wonderful thing. For many decades and still even today, genre storytelling is often overlooked by many people, academics, and audiences alike when it comes to serious movies. The fact that a movie can utilize all kinds of strange and unreal elements to tell a story, deliver a message, and explore a topic seems to be, for many, something that should not be done. However, for those who are open-minded enough to take all these crazy stories and still extract something valuable from them, cinema, video games, books, and TV can be some of the most exciting places to be. They Cloned Tyrone, a new film on Netflix, explores all this and more.
They Cloned Tyrone is a film written and directed by Juel Taylor and starring Joel Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx. The film is the directorial debut of Taylor in the world of feature films and tells the story of Fontaine, a ghetto drug leader who one day gets killed, only to wake up once again with no memory of the event. However, when people around him start noticing that he should be dead, Fontaine recruits the help of a prostitute and her pimp to resolve a mystery at the heart of America and its relationship with black people.
The easiest way to describe They Cloned Tyrone is to say that They Cloned Tyrone is The Cabin in the Woods for black people. I know it sounds weird, but let me explain. Not only are the two films incredibly stylized, both pulling from genres that were very staples of a period, but they also deconstruct certain stereotypes and try to give a reason why they exist in the first place.
Where Cabin in the Wood was trying to explain why all horror films share many, often stupid, characteristics, They Cloned Tyrone tries to explain why black people’s stereotypes exist and why black people perpetuate them over time.
It is a very fascinating concept. The Cabin in the Woods was trying to apply this to a genre of filmmaking, but They Cloned Tyrone is doing the same to an entire community of people so that it might feel a bit more serious. However, both movies use humor to make the premise much more palatable.
And the humor is great. There are some excellent jokes here, while others fall a bit flat, but it is normal for that to happen in a comedy film. Not all jokes can be bangers, and not all sequences can be amazingly executed. While the movie has a few rough edges, it lands when it counts and makes for a fun experience.
I might start sounding like a broken record. Still, the similarities with The Cabin in the Woods are outstanding, not only because of their premise but also because of the many plot points that start arising as the movie progresses.
Some of the visuals, scenarios, and even some elements attached to the film’s conspiracy aspect are the same. This is not to say that They Cloned Tyrone is a ripoff of The Cabin in the Woods. It is actually the opposite, it becomes impressive to see that both movies can share these elements and still make them fit in the context they are working in. This is more of a coincidence or just a good inspiration.
I see this as a mixed bag when it comes to the performances. When John Boyega started in Attack the Block, you could see a star in the making, an actor who embodied a character and made it totally badass, charming, and heroic. However, the more time passes and the more movies Boyega stars in, the more I might have to say that his Attack the Block performance might have been a fluke.
It seems Boyega was at the right place and time with that movie, and the writing and direction did most of the heavy lifting. Each new role seems to prove that Boyega doesn’t have what it takes to pop up on the screen.
While Boyega is doing the same thing he always does, and sadly, it is rather boring, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx are having the time of their lives, and they dominate every scene they are in. Teyonah Parris especially coming out of her role in Wandavision, looks and feels here like a totally different person. This performance is a true calling card regarding her range and charisma.
Everything becomes more interesting and fun when she enters the story. On the other hand, Jamie Fox doesn’t have anything to prove. Yes, he is funny, we know it, but when the moment to be serious comes around, he also kills it in that regard as well. Both their performances make Boyega’s feel even stiffer.
The last half of the second act also falls into the meandering conventions of the heroes regrouping themselves. Something that happens in so many movies that it is impossible to count them all.
This part made the movie slow to a crawl, and for the first time, it became boring. It is strange that for a movie that is always looking to create new and funny situations, then all of a sudden, it invokes something truly mundane to push its characters to the next step. The growth in this section also feels a bit forced, like it was something that needed to happen, and the movie couldn’t think of a more original way to do it. It stands out a lot.
In the end, They Cloned Tyrone is quite a trip. It isn’t the strangest of films, but it taps into some realities that are in vogue right now, almost everywhere. People love a conspiracy, and they love humor, so the mix should make the movie quite a ride when it launches on Netflix this weekend.
For a first feature-length movie, Juel Taylor really shows amazing potential here, and we should all be excited to see him grow as a filmmaker in his future endeavors. Parris and Fox also kill it in their roles, but sadly, Boyega flounders with his. They Cloned Tyrone is totally worth a view. It is sloppy and has pacing problems, but the good overthrows the bad here any day.