You People Synopsis: A new couple (Jonah Hill and Lauren London) and their families reckon with modern love amid culture clashes, societal expectations and generational differences.
Cultures collide when Ezra introduces his Jewish family to his girlfriend Amira’s black family in the Netflix comedy You People.
Mining humor from relevant cultural dynamics is a celebrated staple of writer/director Kenya Barris. Barris struck gold with his hit TV show Blackish – an irresistible success story that morphed Barris into a distinctive voice as a writer and producer. His cinematic oeuvre to date showcases its fair share of hits (Girls Trip) and misses (the 2019 Shaft sequel). Still, I always remain optimistic to see how Barris marries real-world insights within the confines of comforting comedies.
With his directorial debut, Barris crafts You People as a timely twist on the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner/Guess Who narrative concept of a couple wrestling with the disparity between their cultural identities. Exploring the comedic possibilities from systemic societal divides is a brilliant concept on paper. Unfortunately, You People fumbles its potential in a flatlining comedic showcase.
Even in a wayward production, Barris’s keen social perspective remains firmly intact. He and co-writer/star Jonah Hill utilize their traditioned premise to examine the microaggressions fracturing two families from distinctly different racial and religious backgrounds. I appreciate how Barris and Hill attempt to reflect on how people’s good intentions can still often cause division when a sense of genuine understanding does not exist between them.
It’s also hard to deny the luminous talent featured in the film’s cast. Hill remains an affable goofball who elevates comedic material through his bumbling shtick. He and charismatic costar Lauren London form a compelling pair as the central couple, while Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nia Long, and David Duchovny inject their signature spark into the roles of Ezra and Amira’s parents.
For all the talent on display, You People generates shockingly stagnant results. Barris and Hill collaborate on a screenplay that reads like a loosely-tied series of vignettes. Some gags connect on landing incisive insights, but most of the skits feel like lukewarm leftovers recycled from far superior comedies. It does not help that a good portion of the cast is awarded little purpose in their roles. Long, Duchovny, and even the comedic stalwart Murphy are left stewing in the confines of flatly written parts. An overbearing lack of genuine nuance turns most of these characters into one-note caricatures that repeatedly spout the same sentiments.
You People and its tired comedic conventions lack the deft comedic edge to marinate on its concepts. As a result, the film is ultimately too gun-shy for its own good, settling for simplistic sitcom solutions rather than digging into the dysfunctional trenches of its complex real-world dynamics. Barris also proves to be ineffective in his feature-length directorial debut. Desperate attempts to inject infectious energy in the form of flashy edits and zeitgeist songs resonate instead as trite filmmaking devices borrowed from the tired Netflix visual sheen.
You People consistently props up noble intentions. It’s just a shame the film never defines a humorous or meaningful experience from its potent concept.
You People is now playing on Netflix.
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