You People

You People is a comedy that dips into romance, culture clashes, race relations, in-laws angst, podcasting, loneliness and more.

You People is a comedy that dips into romance, culture clashes, race relations, in-laws angst, podcasting, loneliness and more. It’s too much for one movie to handle, especially since this is close to two hours with lots and lots of improvisational riffing that starts to feel creaky. Often it will flip from silly to serious as it uses tired conventions of the romantic comedy genre. What makes it decent is having well-known actors elevate it, but a lot of the heavy lifting is accomplished by star wattage alone.

Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a sad sack who yearns for love, much to the annoyance of his friend and podcasting partner, Mo (Sam Jay). One day he accidentally runs into a woman, Amira (Lauren London), mistaking her for his Uber driver. Despite that awkward beginning, they fall in love. This overjoys Ezra’s Jewish parents, Arnold (David Duchovny) and his talkative mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and only slightly affects his sister Liza (Molly Gordon). Shelley is trying too hard to relate to the black Muslim Amira which makes every moment incredibly awkward. Also incredibly awkward is anytime Ezra interacts with Amira’s father, Akbar (Eddie Murphy), who immediately takes a dislike to Ezra. The culture clash between the two families is intense and may cause Ezra’s proposal to Amira to collapse.
The main draw is Eddie Murphy who is basically the bad guy, as he’s constantly trying to knock Ezra down relentlessly. Murphy isn’t a hugely loud motormouth persona as usual, here he’s still and wearing sunglasses in every other scene, even when indoors, which makes him intimidating. The way he dresses down Ezra is darkly amusing. He’ll just randomly pin things on Ezra, like how Akbar says that he has to take a vaccine to get into a casino. Akbar presents himself as a devout Muslim however it feels shallow. This is enhanced with Akbar’s fast-talking brother shows up, EJ (Mike Epps), who calls Akbar by his former name. At that point, Akbar’s façade drops and relates to his brother in a more informal way.
Watching Akbar come up with ways to throw off Ezra is consistently amusing. He takes Ezra to a basketball game and thinks the guy will get pounded into the pavement, but Ezra proves to be surprisingly good at it, and there’s a fun shot of Ezra doing a no-look shot at the basket. When Akbar takes Ezra to a barber shop wearing the wrong colours, Akbar goes on a long, strange rant comparing Ezra’s decision to being in prison. Akbar invites himself to Ezra’s bachelor party getaway at Las Vegas to make sure Ezra doesn’t have any fun. The best bit is when Ezra denies using cocaine and then one of his buddies goes on a long, loud rant about how Ezra has a “coke guy”. Then the drug dealer with “coke guy” written on his knuckles shows up and throws a bag of coke at Ezra.

Ezra can’t bring himself to stand up to Akbar with lots of awkward moments throughout. He keeps trying to deflect tension between his Jewish family and Amira’s Muslim family, but things get testy during a family dinner where both sides compare their cultural history of oppression and Ezra tries to steer the conversation back towards dinner. The scenes with his podcasting buddy are good for a few riffs, like when Mo tells Ezra that the engagement ring he bought Amira is so tiny he better come up with an excuse, so Ezra says he'll say it’s his grandma’s Holocaust ring. Also, when Ezra is talking about how lonely he is they say he’s lonelier than Drake on his saddest album.
The moments with Lous-Dreyfus as the mother are constantly strange, as she always keeps talking about how she relates to Amira’s culture and just makes things worse. Eventually, Amira rips into her stating that Shelly sees Amira more as a cultural symbol than an actual person. London as Amira has lots of likable moments but, as is the rule in a romantic comedy, there’s a mandatory break up in the third act. Duchovny plays the dad as completely clueless going on long extended rambling bits about old rappers. As the sister, Gordon is there for a few good quips about how dumb her family is. Most of the movie feels improvisational which does lead to some fun asides as the actors bounce back and forth. But the thing about extended improvisational riffing is that it starts to get a little wearying. Also there’s a few moments where the characters talk about race which grinds the movie to a halt. The film wants to be a zany mismatched family comedy but also say serious things about race relations in America. A lot of the humour is from the awkwardness, but the serious moments are just dramatically awkward.

You People skates by on the comedic chops of the lead actors, even as the script can’t manage the delicate balance between silly and serious. When it’s just sort of about Eddie Murphy being nasty to Jonah Hill, it is consistently entertaining. When it tries to be about something larger, it falls apart. But there’s enough funny bits in here that makes up for when it’s fumbling for cultural truth.  
You People
3 stars
Director: Kenya Barris
Starring: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, David Duchovny, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Eddie Murphy

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