The Glen — with enigmatic license plates and streets named Lethe Ave. — is purposefully ambiguous as to where it is in the U.S., giving the neighborhood an overlay of surrealism that makes the story feel more like a parable than something taking place in the real world.
The time period is also a juxtaposition of different eras, with iPhones mixed in with ’70s decor and, in the evil underground government lab, a retrofuturistic flair that evokes what people in the ’60s thought the future would look like.
The conceit of presenting this smorgasbord of time periods and genres is an intriguing one, and something I’m glad to see attempted in a feature film. There are also moments where it works — the contrast of the sleek grey, futuristic elevator opening up in the unlikeliest of places, for example, plays well. Unfortunately, moments like this are the exception rather than the rule, and the movie struggles to deliver on its vision.
The trailer for “They Cloned Tyrone,” for example, suggests the film leans heavily into the comedic side of satire. Most of the scenes meant to be played as comedy, however (with the exception of some great lines by Foxx), fall flat. And as the movie goes on, the plot points become more outlandish. The absurdity of the circumstances Fontaine, Slick Charles, and Yo-Yo find themselves in is far from a bad thing in itself, but as the movie becomes more like a spy thriller, the more it seems to lose the tone it was aiming for in the first half of the film. The result is a stilted back half, where the absurdity of what is going on — a satirical commentary on the many, many inequities in America — grinds against an awkward delivery of those themes.