In the hood, everyone plays a role. But who gets to decide? Netflix’s new Afrofuturistic comedy, They Cloned Tyrone, sends a pimp, a sex worker, and a drug dealer to answer that very question.
What’s It About?
Fontaine (John Boyega) is The Glen neighborhood’s resident drug dealer, who only cares about his cash, momma, and Junebug. Things go awry when Fontaine goes to collect dope money from Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), The Glen’s number one pimp. The fallout leads Fontaine, Slick Rick, and sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Paris) on a mission to uncover a deep-seated conspiracy affecting every corner of the hood.
The Rebirth of the Cool
Writer and director Juel Taylor (Creed II) wanted to make the coolest-looking film ever. They Cloned Tyrone is a love letter to 1970s Blacksploitation. Each set is crammed with soulful music, smoky rooms, and sexy blue and purple lighting bouncing off Black skin.
The gruff Fontaine drives the streets of The Glen in a mint green 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix, surrounded by other classic rides mixed in with more modern fare. The costumes, especially those of Slick Rick, Yo-Yo, and other sex workers, clash with the more modern streetwear worn by shop owners, church members, and drug dealers of the community.
Although The Glen’s aesthetic is unique, the plight of The Glen is not. Taylor works with cinematographer Ken Seng to rapidly transition fantastic, Afrocentric night scenes to drab, depressing scenes during the day. These abrupt transitions leave you wondering which reality you should accept.
Uncovering the Conspiracy
Speaking of realities, what is really going on in the hood? Juel Taylor and his writing partner Tony Rettenmaier (Space Jam: A New Legacy) handle this question with superb deftness and sleight. The Glen is a neighborhood depressed by the social conditions we’ve come to recognize in many of our communities. There is a depression of resources, and jobs have starved the hood, And yet, everyone is inexplicably complacent.
They Cloned Tyrone tackles what drives this numbness. Capitalism, anti-black beauty standards, and a bastardization of religion are just a few of the themes that surface while Fontaine, Yo-Yo, and Slick Rick try to solve the mystery of the hood. Taylor forces the viewer to wrestle with these systems that keep Black communities depressed. You may not agree with each of these messages, but at least the film makes you think about them.
Heavy Themes Produce Comedy Gold
Yes, this Afrofuturist sci-fi film dives into some deep and dark corners of society. But let’s be clear; They Cloned Tyrone is a comedy through and through. Jamie Foxx gives us one of his best comedic performances in years. As Slick Rick, he dives deep into his comedy bag, taking bits of characters that made the In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show actor famous.
Teyonah Paris is a delight as Yo-Yo. Her character serves as our sounding board for the actions on screen. Paris continuously shows she can tackle any genre, but witty comedies like They Cloned Tyrone are where she shines brightest.
John Boyega plays his character straight for the film, offering many powerful moments of dramatic acting for the film. Yet, he is equally important for the comedy of the film. Typically, a comedic film’s “straight person” reacts to the goofballs surrounding them. However, They Cloned Tyrone upends this trope by having Slick Rick and Yo-Yo respond to Fontaine’s blind commitment to uncovering the truth no matter how weird things get.
They Cloned Tyrone is the Afrofuturist comedy we didn’t know we needed. The script is uncompromising in its critique and clever in its delivery. They Cloned Tyrone is the type of art that allows for conversations on systems of oppression accessible to a broad audience. Sure, the film sometimes meanders (as most comedies do), yet you stay invested in beautiful characters, root for them to uproot the system, and laugh along the way.
They Cloned Tyrone is a MACRO Media production distributed by Netflix.