A Netflix comedy that is a little too obvious and massively cliched, while failing with its aim of being a “clever take” on social commentary.
WRITTEN BY JOHN MCDONALD / FEBRUARY 1, 2023
Meeting the in-laws is always a scary thought; it has the power to strike fear into the heart of even the toughest of people and make them quiver with terrifying awkwardness. But how about when two completely different families' worlds collide for this longstanding tradition? Well, that’s exactly what You People explores, even if it's wildly predictable and hugely clichéd.
This romcom-like buddy film fresh to Netflix from director Kenya Barris follows Ezra (Jonah Hill) who is on the lookout for a girlfriend, and one of the few men that actively wish to be tied down as quickly as possible. It’s as if the romcom gods themselves were listening because during a random encounter with Amira (Lauren London), a woman he mistakes for his uber driver (although the resemblance really is uncanny), it kick starts an unlikely relationship and sets the wheels in motion for the clashing of two worlds.
The couple must try to integrate their families into one, but with the dynamics being so off-kilter, and the two families' cultures becoming a match made in hell, societal and generational differences might just become too much to handle. As soon as the film begins though, you become aware of what type of experience this will be. Laden with topical conversations about popular music and artists, littered with cheap and often unfunny jokes, and comical metaphors about Drake (yes, Drake) – it’s all very modern and age-appropriate.
The film’s concept is fun, as you would expect; it’s an exaggerated representation of a potential real-life situation, like so many films of cinema’s past: Meet the Fockers, Guess Who, My Big Fat Greek Wedding – they are all one of the same really, but You People
struggles to come out on top in the battle of this all too frequent sub-genre of film. The biggest issue is that the jokes are just too expected and completely obvious. They basically write themselves; they are everything you wouldn’t say about a white Jewish family meeting a black Muslim family, but this time, they are, of course, all that is ever said. Accompanying the inconsistent jokes, however, is the other gigantic irk that plagues this film, an incessant need to stuff something else in. It suffers from elongated dialogue in what would be some usually short exchanges, insisting on carrying on with the awkward conversations as a means to fit in one more forced joke, or one more outrageous comment, possibly even two. The constant mixing of the two becomes tiresome very quickly but get used to it because it doesn’t stop any time soon.
It's not often Hill involves himself with underwhelming comedies though, and You People feels more like a missed opportunity than anything. What it has going for it is an extremely talented cast full of great comedic skill. The queen of the sitcom herself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brilliant as Ezra’s mother, Shelley; the stereotypical Jewish mother (one that certainly doesn’t look old enough to be the mother of a 30-something male). She is the perfect amount of awkwardness, she’s borderline offensive even if she doesn’t mean to be, while her husband Arnold (David Duchovny) becomes the unassuming foil to the loudmouth antics of his boisterous wife. And not to be left out in this locking of horns is Eddie Murphy as Amira’s NOI (Nation of Islam) supporting father, Akbar, although this time, we see him as the effective straight man watching the silliness unfold around him, with his supportive wife Fatima (Nia Long) backing his every authoritative word.
You People becomes bogged down in its own predictability though (there’s even an Eddie Murphy barbershop scene just to clarify things as well), which makes it nothing more than uninteresting. This is an average comedy that lacks the clever jokes of its counterparts, wrongs that even a strong cast cannot overturn thanks to a weak script. It is hellbent on trying to be suave with smartly constructed satire about the modern world, but it is over-reliant on these themes to the point it is sickly. Satire is at its most effective when done in the most astute of ways, whereas You People is just another run-of-the-mill romcom set within the hecticness of present-day Los Angeles.