For what it’s worth, I would consider Eddie Murphy to be one of the greatest living comedians of our time. Starring in countless gems throughout the 80s and 90s, the only major notable films from Murphy since the early 2010s, Dolemite Is My Name and Coming 2 America, earned relatively mixed reception. Now, Murphy’s newest has arrived—what should be a fun and entertaining comedic Netflix offering. Featuring an ensemble cast that appears outstanding on paper, You People is a misguided attempt at racial politics that is little more than a poor modern update to Meet the Parents. Talk about a wasted opportunity…
Ezra (Jonah Hill) runs a podcast with Mo (Sam Jay) aptly called “The Mo And E-Z Show,” all about their takes on black culture. On-air, they have a good vibe that speaks to their many listeners. You People barely focuses on this friendship though; instead, the script from Hill and Kenya Barris is more interested in following rom-com tropes. On Yom Kippur, Ezra rushes to catch his Uber, and unknowingly hops into the car of Amira (Lauren London). On her way to work, Amira agrees to drive Ezra to his next destination as they laugh off the Uber driver’s hilariously similar appearance to her own. The film does not take enough time establishing the beginning stages of their rendezvous, next skipping ahead to when they are dating.
Punctuated by bizarre street-art-style interludes and punchy music, the narrative is split into frequently frustrating vignettes that transport the viewer from one scenario to the next. This is often executed as to not have to deal with scene transitions, or to jump forward from more interesting or extraneous situations. Months-later title cards are used recklessly, never allowing the viewer to get as invested in this relationship as they should be. The setup of any rom-com is usually the most important aspect, but in You People, it is nothing more than table setting to meet the parents. Those early scenes showed so much promise—in particular, Ezra stumbling over his words, unable to speak like a normal human due to nervousness, was very amusing.
Six months after they first meet, Ezra is desperate to propose to Amira. One issue may take precedent: he has never even met Amira’s side of the family, and Ezra’s tiny engagement ring may not measure up to her hopes and dreams. Mo suggests Ezra embellish the ring holder to pass it off as his grandmother’s “Holocaust ring.” Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), are Muslim and deeply religious. They do not take kindly to their daughter’s interest in this schlubby white man. Akbar’s constant jabs at Ezra grow stale rather quickly. Ezra’s parents aren’t much better—Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny) are cringe, and trying their hardest to epitomize an ideal woke concept they think Akbar and Fatima want to hear is embarrassing.
The conflicts here are small scale and go nowhere fast. Ezra’s parents want a rabbi to officiate the wedding, while Amira’s parents desire an imam to reside over the ceremony. A bachelor party in Las Vegas has Ezra trying to hide his coke-addled past exploits. Racially-charged relationship dynamics down to what songs they sing or enjoy are put under a microscope. Fatima threatens to pull out slavery receipts when an unfortunate, misguided discussion breaks out during dinner over whose people have been enslaved longer. An accidental hat-fire is one of the few funny moments in the saggy middle section of the film. Despite a game cast and a fine start, Kenya Barris’s You People could best be described as underwhelming nothingness. Beyond its great setup and sharply funny introductory sequences, You People has little to offer.
Form your own opinion on You People when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, January 27th.