Jordan Peele‘s Nope (Universal, 7.22) is a fairly empty diversion — a wacko visual-effects thrill ride and a Signs-like alien visitation thing.

The alien stuff aside, it has three cool elements — (a) a 1998 flashback scene involving a chimpanzee named Gordy, (b) the re-birth of Fry’s Electronics, the defunct chain store that died from Covid in early ’21, and (c) incessant third-act appearances by an army of “tall boys” or “air dancers” — those shimmering tube-like balloons that used-car lots use to attract attention.

It’s about the owners of a remote horse ranch somewhere in the Southwest, a brother and sister named OJ and Emerald Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) who inherit the ranch when their horse-loving dad (Keith David) is killed by falling objects, apparently dropped by mean-as-fuck aliens.

Bit by bit and more and more, the aliens (whose presence is chiefly signified by saucer-like spaceships and a massive, floating, cloud-like bedsheet thing) begin to intimidate and then terrify OJ and Emerald.

And then OJ and Emerald hire a Fry’s guy (Brandon Perea) to capture video images of the visitors, and then they bring in a documentarian (Michael Wincott‘s “Antlers Holst”, a character cut from the Robert Shaw/”Quint” mold) to capture the alien spacecraft on celluloid. And then the threat element increases. And then it ends.

I saw Nope last night. I developed a thesis this morning that the aliens are a metaphor for white people’s oppression of BIPOCs. This is what Peele does, of course — racial re-fittings of genre tropes. Get Out was a racial spin on The Stepford Wives, and Us was a horror film about doppelgangers but finally about the absolute terror of Ken Kragen‘s “Hands Across America.”

Friendo: “Naah, you’re reading too much into it…Nope is just a UFO thriller.” HE: “But it’s not SAYING anything except ‘boo!’ It has no content…UNLESS you, the viewer, interpret the aliens as metaphors for white oppression. THEN it’s saying something.”

Nope has no structure, no real story, nothing that digs in and pays off. It’s an alien horror film equivalent of a Jasper Johns painting — paint flung and dripped and splattered upon the canvas.

Basic Nope strategy: Start with basic spooky UFO premise and then (a) throw out the rule book, (b) disconnect the logic terminals, (c) throw everything you can think of at the canvas, and (d) see what sticks.

Oh, and by the way? It’s really hard to understand Palmer and especially Kaluuya. As Eddie Murphy might say if he catches Nope, “I don’t what the fuck these guys are sayin’.” Remember Barbara Billingsley’s imitation of black “jive” in 1980’s Airplane? That’s how Palmer talks — half Billingsley, half vocal fry. Remember Murphy’s imitation of James Brown with those guttural scat riffs? That’s how Kaluuya sounds. I was able to understand him maybe 20% of the time, if that.

And they don’t look like brother and sister. Palmer could be Keith David’s daughter, no prob, but no way is Kaluuya his son. Kaluuya’s parents are from Uganda, Palmer’s are from Chicago, David’s are from Harlem/Queens.

No discipline, this fucking film. It’s “imaginative,” if you want to call it that. As slow and talky and stodgy as Cleopatra was, it at least made sense. Which is more than you can say for Nope. So Cleopatra is better.

Say it again — when Gordy appears, the film comes alive. What Gordy has to do with the dumbshit rascal white-oppressor aliens is anyone’s guess.

Steven Yeun costars in Nope, and I couldn’t understand why he was in it. Yes, he has something to do with Gordy (I won’t say) and he wears a red suit and a big white cowboy hat in one scene, but he has NOTHING to do with anything.

I need to re-watch this movie with subtitles some day.

Why the hell is Kaluuya’s character named “OJ,” of all things? That’s a statement of some kind, but what?

If Dore Schary had somehow returned from the dead and become the producer on this film, before filming began he would have invited Peele to lunch and said, “Look, I’m just a Jewish white-guy producer and I don’t know much about African Americans or horse ranches or Fry’s Electronics, but WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS MOVIE ABOUT?? You don’t know, do you? You’re just farting around with spooky alien visitors and trying to cook up something different and trippy, but THIS MOVIE IS BULLSHIT, JORDAN…you know it and I know it.”

And Peele would reply, “It’s a metaphor about white people’s oppression of BIPOCs.” And Schary would reply, “What are BIPOCs?” And Peele would say, “Don’t worry about it, bruh…I got this.”

No white-ass producer would dare say “bullshit” to Peele, of course, lest he/she be accused of harboring racist attitudes. Which is why Nope turned out this way…a crazy, impressionistic, Jasper Johns-like mess. Peele was apparently given carte blanche control, and this is what happens.

I do approve, however, of Peele bringing Fry’s back to life after it shut down all 31 locations in early ‘21. And I’l always approve of tube men and chimpanzees and stuff like that.

I was studying Palmer closely throughout the film, by the way. I don’t know if it was Palmer who didn’t get along with Bill Murray on the set of Being Mortal, but if it was I can see why. Palmer is buried inside herself and cranked up about everything, and Murray, I’m guessing, thought she was “wrapped too tight for New Orleans” and tried some kind of stilly, loosening-up prank, and she reacted badly, I’m guessing. She not only told him to back off but brought the temple down. Again — I don’t know what happened. I just want to make that clear. But Palmer excited my imagination.