Kenya Barris has moved from television to feature film, his debut is a star studded affair that tries very hard to be one thing, with varying degrees of success. The film is a modern love story by way of Look Who’s Coming To Dinner?, featuring the style and commentary one might expect from the creator of Black-ish.
When Ezra (Jonah Hill) accidentally jumps into the back of a car he assumes is his Uber, he’s meets Amira (Lauren London) in a romcom meet-cute for the modern age. The two strike up a flirtatious back and forth and soon love is blossoming and a marriage proposal imminent. The problem is, Ezra is from an affluent, white, Jewish family and Amira is from a black, Muslim family, and neither of them are ready for the culture clash that is about to happen.
Jonah Hill is back in a leading roll in a comedy, a welcome sight and he takes the helm with ease. Brimming to the top with social commentary and modern day grievances, touching on everything, yet focusing on nothing. When we are first introduced to Amira’s father, Akbar Muhammad (Eddie Murphy), he is wearing a “Fred Hampton Was Murdered” shirt, and when we first meet Ezra’s parents they drone on about police brutality and Pimp My Ride. One the very broad stroke version of “I would have voted for Obama three times”, while the other is just as broad, every time they are on screen it feels like the filmmaker is elbowing us in the ribs, “Do you get it? Do you get it?”.
There is no doubt the motives are well intentioned, but it lacks any bite or depth, instead opting for surface level problems and conclusions. Co-written by Hill and Barris, there is a moment at the end when it seemed like they would take the film in a different direction, that despite all its comedy and broad appeal, it would hook its claws into you and make a statement. Instead of a more realistic and sad ending, there is a contrived Hallmark Movie ending that does the film no favors, especially for the conversation it’s trying to have.
Not without its faults, You People is very funny. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny are nearly perfect as the overbearing parents, saying all the wrong things at all the wrong times. Eddie Murphy plays so well off of Hill, the cat and mouse game that is being played between them is definitely the highlight of the film. Hill and London have great chemistry and their on screen romance is certainly believable.
With a few great cameos and plenty of laughs, this will certainly be a hit for Netflix. Unfortunately, the more lofty goals of race, xenophobia, generational differences, and societal expectation are all undercut by a script that goes too soft on the issues it’s condemning. It’s a perfectly fine Romcom and even an effective comedy, but a searing retribution, it is not.
2.5 out of 5