Starring: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sam Jay, Nia Long, and David Duchovny
Director: Kenya Barris
Lauren London and Jonah Hill are too cute together in You People for their story to be so underdeveloped. Instead of a full-fledged narrative, director Kenya Barris just strung together a loose collection of random rom-com scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I chuckled at Hill’s patented awkwardness and a toned-down Eddie Murphy (more at Eddie than Hill, though), but aside from an ending that’s much better realized than its lead up, this one had me reaching for something more. More cohesion. More Eddie being Eddie. More trust in London and Hill to carry a genuine story. But hey, it was cute, though.
The more I think about You People, the less I like it. It packages itself as a more unique story than it actually is while constantly contradicting itself. For example, Ezra (Jonah Hill) has a successful podcast about "The Culture," yet he's often portrayed as the white man who doesn't know black things. It's a joke that was already played out and is relied on far too heavily here. Still, there are some jokes that work and solid performances (Julia Louis-Dreyfus is perfectly cast), but avoiding stereotypes with Hill’s character by focusing on the dysfunction of the parents would have made for a better film.
Although You People ends up exactly where you’d expect, it’s not without some laughs along the way. That said, mileage will vary on just how much you laugh because so many of the jokes and references require some level of insider knowledge. For example, if you don’t know much about Louis Farrakhan’s stance on Jewish people (I do), Drake’s discography (I don’t), or the name of a certain Jay-Z/Kanye collab (I do), those jokes fall completely flat. Also, director Kenya Barris’ music video-inspired, snapshots-of-LA scene transitions are overdone. Still, the performances mostly work, and the jokes that do land make for a decently entertaining watch.
You People is the smartest, most straightforward rom-com I’ve seen in a long time. Following a Meet the Parents meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner premise, You People offers an earnest look at modern-day race relations. That being said, it never feels ridiculously heavy, instead using the comedy to lighten the very real issues the film brings up. The cast is phenomenal, and they had me laughing out loud multiple times, putting a smile on my face while also making me cringe. It’s smart and respectable, but most importantly, it’s entertaining.
You People survives mainly on the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Lauren London. Their scenes together, along with Hill's scenes with Sam Jay, make for the best romance and comedic elements of the film. Kenya Barris and Hill’s script is impressively balanced between great inside humor catered to the culture and clichéd and hammy dialogue. Plus, what could have made for a fresh update on 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner instead opts for surface-level humor while leaning on Hill’s charm. Barris' direction is sharp and inventive, though, making for a great weeknight movie to watch with a significant other.
You People never really finds its footing with its narrative while also being staggeringly unfunny and filled with cringe-worthy dialogue to boot. It seems like Jonah Hill and director Kenya Barris, who co-wrote the film together, had good intentions with what they wanted to execute with this interracial rom-com, but it tries way too hard to be relevant. Hill’s self-deprecating charm is the only tolerable thing going for this feature, and overall, the film feels like a sloppy juggling act that ends up abandoning all of its heavy topics to just be a surface-level social satire.