'You People' review: Uninspired social comedy struggles for relevance
Courtesy of Netflix
“You People” features a stacked ensemble that includes Eddie Murphy, Jonah Hill, Nia Long, David Duchovny, Nia Long, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but none of them overcome a lazy and uninspired comedy with its priorities all over the place. Directed and co-written by “Blackish” creator Kenya Barris, “You People” is the type of comedy eager to tackle hot button topics like Black Lives Matter, politics, vaccines, religion and racial disparity without a meaningful (or funny) way to do it.
Desperately wanting to be a cross of “Meet the Parents” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (which, you know, came out in 1967 and is more relevant than whatever ends up on screen here), “You People” manages to squander the comic genius of Murphy and his cohorts in favor of unfunny dialogue around various cultural movements. In addition, there’s not a single ounce of plausible human behavior displayed for the movie’s two-hour runtime. Some people might laugh at the jokes or connect with the overtly obvious social commentary being forced into the screenplay, but it left me cold.
Jonah Hill plays Ezra, a financial consultant with dreams of becoming a full-time podcaster alongside his friend Mo (Sam Jay) who have open and honest discussions on the state of race in America. He’s 35 and unmarried, much to the bemoan of his parents (Duchovny and Dreyfus) who love to remind him any chance they get, especially after a service at their local synagogue. As fate would have it (and the willingness to suspend disbelief), Ezra meets Amira (Lauren London) after accidently hopping into the back of her car and assuming it was an Uber. In any normal situation, Ezra would get the boot and never see Amira again, but in “You People,” the two instantly form a connection and before we know it, are engaged.
Of course, there’s the matter of getting the parents blessing and undergoing the awkward family introductions that come with these comedies. His family is Jewish, hers is Muslim, which, in real life might not be that big of a deal, but in “You People” it’s the source of much ire and frustration. Ezra’s parents, Arnold and Shelly, welcome Amira, but they immediately treat her like the token Black daughter-in-law they’ve always wanted. Suddenly they’re talking about rap music, Chris Rock documentaries, and braids. Not because it’s what they like, but they think it’s “cool.” This might be funny if “Get Out” hadn’t already done it under the guise of a horror movie, but instead it’s extremely cringeworthy. And worse, “You People” is supposed to be a comedy.
Meanwhile, Amira’s parents Akbar (Murphy) and Fatima (Long), openly disapprove of Ezra in a manner that’s not even comical. It’s just mean. They’re are laughs in these interactions, during one sequence Akbar takes Ezra to play some hoops on his side of the neighborhood in an attempt to humble him to African-American culture. A trip to the barbershop and the dissection of a popular Jay-Z and Kanye West song that’s title includes a racial slur is mildly amusing until, well, it isn’t.
Sadly, most of the cast isn’t given much depth. Main characters disappear for long stretches of time and then waltz back into the picture like nothing’s happened. In particular, Long and Duchovny must’ve had better things to do because they have all of 10-minutes of screentime. It’s not until the inevitable bride/groom vs parents showdown where the script tackles ignorance and the validation of feelings with some sense of authenticity. Fortunately, it shows up too late in the movie to make any real difference.
YOU PEOPLE debuts on Netflix Friday, January 27th.