You People is a perfectly fine film.
Never as endearingly romantic as it seems to want to be nor as socially biting as it has potential to be, this collaboration between Jonah Hill and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is far too content to ride the mainstream comedy wave in an effort, it would seem, to please more folks than it actually pisses off. The result is that You People never completely satisfies though this top-notch ensemble never allows the film to completely collapse.
Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a finance flunkie and wannabe podcaster who stumbles into what he believes is his Uber. Instead, it's a Mini Cooper owned by Amira Mohammed (Lauren London). This initially awkward encounter quickly becomes something more as the two hit it off with and You People heads squarely into biracial rom-com territory with waves of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner crashing against contemporary Black/Jewish tensions and familial misunderstandings. In fact, everything is going quite nicely for Ezra and Amira until the families get involved.
Oh, and what families.
Ezra's family prides itself on its liberalism and openly embracing Amira in pretty much all the wrong ways from dad Arnold's (David Duchovny) obsession with Xzibit to mom Shelley's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) cringy exclamation "“We’re a family of color now!"
Amira's parents, on the other hand, aren't having it from the get go. The Muslim couple, played to perfection by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long, is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that their beloved daughter never marries Ezra.
Co-written by Hill and Barris with Barris directing in his feature debut, You People starts off with a slam, a delightfully improvisational podcast riff between Ezra and co-host Mo (Sam Jay) that digs into the film's rich social satire potential. You People holds onto that edge until about its midway point at which time it suddenly starts playing it safe with a bachelor party and bridal shower that feel like they could have come out of any number of rom-coms.
Yet, I can't deny that I still enjoyed You People for what it was even if I lamented what it could have been. Hill has always had a gift for playing with an ensemble and the same is true here. Whether with Amira, Sam Jay's Mo, or alongside Eddie Murphy's authoritative Big Daddy Akbar, Hill practically immerses himself with his scene partners and at its very best You People becomes a safe but insightful slightly dramatic comedy. Sam Jay is the film's secret weapon, dazzling constantly in every moment on-screen and Eddie Murphy plays it serious but still makes us laugh and shiver a bit. This is one of Murphy's best performances in a few years.
While You People becomes more benign the longer it plays, there are moments when you get a glimpse of exactly what Hill and Barris were aiming for and it makes the ever so slight miss all that more painful. There's so much truth to be told here and far too often You People holds its cinematic tongue.
Enough can't be said about this ensemble cast. In addition to the key players, appearances by Indiana native Mike Epps, Elliott Gould, Rhea Perlman, and Molly Gordon are inspired if far too brief.
Currently streaming on Netflix, You People may not be the bold film that we need it to be but it's still an entertaining, thoughtful film with a strong ensemble cast and an occasional willingness to speak truths that need to be heard. If you're a fan of virtually anyone in the cast, You People is worth a view.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic