Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” marked such a thrilling directing debut that the pretty-good things he’s done in the five years since, including “Us” and a full plate of TV shows, have felt somewhat less exciting by comparison. “Nope,” another monosyllabic title, initially looks destined to buck that trend, but turns out to be fun without sustaining its promise from start to finish.
Although the marketing has teased an alien-invasion plot, Peele again attempts to turn some of our expectations on their heads, playfully toying with conventions of the genre. By setting much of the action on a remote horse ranch outside Los Angeles, the writer-director-producer mounts the terror on a smallish family scale, closer to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” than the grandeur of Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” despite those bubbling clouds and foreboding skies.
Said family consists of siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya, reuniting with the director) and Emerald (Keke Palmer), who have inherited their father’s ranch and business wrangling horses for Hollywood. But with work having fallen on hard times, OJ begins selling stock to Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a carnival-barker sort who runs a nearby tourist spot, situated in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere, however, is where UFO-type sightings have historically taken place, and things gradually get very, very strange indeed. Emerald and OJ’s search for the truth brings in the local video guy (Brandon Perea, a really amusing addition), who clearly watches too much programming on cable TV’s crowded aliens-among-us tier, although he’s useful if the goal, as OJ says, is to produce evidence worthy of “Oprah.”