A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Us -- a shocking, bonkers, often funny horror movie about doppelgangers starring Lupita Nyong'o -- is writer/director Jordan Peele's follow-up to his enormously popular Get Out. While this film isn't likely to have the same cultural impact, it's still quite good. It's also very scary and violent. There are jump scares, plus many attacks and killings with blood and gore. Characters use blunt objects on doppelgangers, and doppelgangers slice and stab people with sharp scissors. A woman is handcuffed, and children are sometimes in peril. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The "N" word is heard in a song ("F--k tha Police" by N.W.A.), and a boy uses the word "bulls--t." A man kisses his wife and makes silly comments and gestures to indicate that he'd like to have sex, but it doesn't go any further. Secondary characters are seen drinking heavily in a comic way, without consequences.
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What's the story?
US begins with young Adelaide enjoying the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with her parents in 1986. While her father is distracted, she wanders off and winds up in a house of mirrors. The power winks off, and she finds herself standing next to what looks like her own reflection ... except that it's not a reflection. Flash forward to the present: Grown-up Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) is now married to Gabe (Winston Duke), with a teen daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and a young son, Jason (Evan Alex). While the family vacations at their summer home, Gabe suggests going back to Santa Cruz; though the idea terrifies Adelaide, she reluctantly agrees. Jason is briefly missing, but otherwise the day goes well. But when they get home, they discover a strange family of four standing in their driveway. And they look a lot like the Wilsons ... except that they don't seem friendly.
Is it any good?
Jordan Peele's horror shocker can't compete with its sensational predecessor Get Out, but it doesn't have to. Made with precision, intelligence, and humor, Us is totally bonkers and wildly entertaining in its own right. It can be said that Us has something to do with doppelgangers, but just how far the story goes and what it all means is best left to individual discussion. It's like a carnival ride of crazy ideas -- it's startling and also actually sometimes funny. While Get Out had little pockets of comic relief inserted into strategic places, the laughs in Us, based both on ironic jokes and on the happy feel of relief and release, are scattered throughout. Any character in this film can earn a laugh.
Since Peele -- well known as part of the comedy team Key & Peele -- understands the primal, bodily sensations of both laughter and fear, he approaches the filmmaking in Us with supreme confidence. His camera never shakes but rather moves in such a way to hide or reveal information for maximum impact. He's as precise here as Hitchcock or Kubrick. He also understands the use of music and sound, merging back and forth between a chilling, chanting orchestral score and pop songs, each adjusted at just the right volume or tone. It's an undeniably well-crafted and brutally effective movie, but where Get Out created a sharp, satirical commentary on race relations, this one very simply presents a positive portrayal of an African American family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Us. Do the blood and gore seem over the top? Do the violent scenes help tell the story in an effective way? Is it shocking or thrilling? Why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?
What is a doppelganger? Do you think they exist in real life? Could there be a "good" and "evil" version of a person? Why or why not?
How many movies have you seen that portray an average/regular African American family? How did this one compare? Why is the family's ordinariness notable?
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