Key & Peele are comedic geniuses. I loved their show, and last year, the comedy they did about a cat (Keanu) made my top 10 list. Now Jordan Peele is trying his hand at writing and directing. Surprisingly, it’s a horror film. Another surprise — it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets The Stepford Wives…if the Stepford wives were all trying to kill you.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous about going to his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) house to meet the parents. That would be a normal fear for a young man, but he found out that she’s never told them he’s black. She laughs, adding, “My dad has said that he would’ve voted for Obama for a third term if he could.”
That doesn’t comfort him much. And once he arrives, the parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) couldn’t be nicer. It’s the black servants he seems a bit more worried about (played marvelously by Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel). They seem a little too happy as they work; like hypnotized zombies.
It’s interesting how a lot of the older white folks that arrive for a party, think nothing of making comments about “genetic makeup” or liking Tiger Woods. And what makes this all so interesting is that Chris is so likable. He’s not super angry when a cop harrasses him early on. He doesn’t mind an older guest saying something completely ridiculous. It starts to wear thin on him, but he trudges through this weekend with the parents. Yet when the maid keeps getting creepier, and the landscaper runs at him full speed in the middle of the night screaming…this whole ‘guess who’s coming to dinner’ makes you wonder if he’ll make it through dessert!
Things don’t get better with the arrival of a bizarre brother (Caleb Landry Jones) that seems to be antagonizing him and wanting to scrap with him MMA style.
But hey…at least the girl’s mom (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist that might help him quit smoking. That hypnosis scene is a bit reminiscent of Being John Malkovich and Stir of Echoes (Kevin Bacon).
One of the many fun things about this movie are the amount of jokes that land. For example, his constant calls to his buddy (comedian Lil Rel Howery) are always a blast. In one of them, the paranoid TSA agent goes on about being hypnotized to be a sex slave, and rants and raves about what Jeffrey Dahmer did to black kids. I laughed so hard tears were running down my face.
The 3rd act was a bit uneven, but the crowd I saw it with was in stitches (no pun intended). They were yelling stuff at the screen like, “Dawg! Get the hell out of that house!” Another time I heard, “Ni****, don’t go down in that damn attic!”
The movie could’ve used a few more scares, since they’re billing it as a horror flick. Perhaps horror fans will be disappointed, but everyone else will be surprised. It’s an interesting, satirical piece on racism that never gets preachy and is a fun time at the movies. It works so much better than I imagined, because they played it straight and didn’t get cheesy.
The couple had chemistry, and Chris is a smart and likable kid. It helps when you’re rooting for the protagonist (something The Cure for Wellness got completely wrong).
The movie reminded me a bit of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, but not nearly as funny.
Hopefully, the next time Peele directs a movie, he drops the shaky cam.
3 ½ stars out of 5.