You People is a comedy that has little to pull from the topic of race than the tone-deaf awkwardness of white people being around black people.
Published on February 10, 2023
Rating 1.5 /5
In 2005, the movie Guess Who attempted a race-swap remake of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, where white and black families clashed amid a mixed-race marriage. The film’s failure should’ve proven that this type of race commentary needs to be handled better than replaying the scenario with modern slanders and tone-deaf racial jokes. You People, however, continues this format, which still doesn’t work, coming off even more mean and mixed in its messaging than Guess Who.
The central romance is between the obnoxious broker/podcaster Ezra (Jonah Hill) and the fashion designer Amira (Lauren London). They have decent chemistry as they meet up and enjoy each other’s company, but there’s an ominous sign early on in the picture. The dates between Ezra and Amira are brief, beyond the awkward moments between them. Scenes of them laughing and loving are reduced to montages. Editing like this signals that the film is less interested in whether or not their marriage will come together and all about how it could fall apart.
All of the awkwardness comes telegraphed, leaving little room for surprise in the mishaps of the family meeting. Ezra’s parents (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) are Jewish liberals who try and fail to connect with black people. Dreyfus will stumble around trying to signal alliances with Black Lives Matter while Duchovny casually brings up his love for Xzibit. On Amira’s side, her father, Akbar (Eddie Murphy), is a strict Muslim who casually criticizes and judges Ezra and his family. The comedy from these clashing races and religions pretty much writes itself, or so the filmmakers thought they would.
This is the type of comedy where the actors are expected to pull double-duty in making a painfully adrift script work better than it was written. To the cast’s credit, they try their best. Hill perfectly embodies that millennial who feels like he’s above the buffoonery of his boomer parents but is still a few stones away from learning not to be awkward with his commentary on race (which is bizarre for a guy whose podcast seems to deal with black issues). Dreyfus has mastered the art of being a straight-faced clown since her days on VEEP, and Duchovny’s dead-pan delivery still works. It was a nice change of pace to see Eddie Murphy in a comedy where he does more acting with his expressions and chill insults.
The humor here is exceptionally mean, and it’s hard to root for anybody in this questionable satire. One of the cruelest moments is when Akbar messes with Ezra by bringing him into a black barbershop, where he constantly sabotages Ezra’s presentation among the black patrons. Later, Akbar forces Ezra onto a basketball court for a game where he hopes to prove the theory that a white man can’t jump. This is meant to be seen as a moment of understanding as it turns out that Ezra is great at basketball and has strong teamwork skills with the black players. It’s supposed to be enduring that Akbar is approving of Ezra, but should a future son-in-law really have to be thrown into this racial gauntlet for marriage approval? The constant feuding of the families like this only worsens the relationship between Ezra and Amira to such a degree that one longs for the two just to elope and escape their cringe-inducing families.
You People is a comedy that has little to pull from the topic of race than the tone-deaf awkwardness of white people being around black people. While it had a chance to be something more, it settles on the tired tropes of awkward racial gags that fall so flat it's embarrassing. Nearly every scene feels like it’s not only trying to divert a disaster but stopping a heated and perhaps revealing conversation. This is best showcased in the family dinner, where a topic about Louis Farrakhan nearly derails the dinner. Ezra quickly tries to redirect these conversations, but when these situations ultimately lead to an accidental fire at the dinner table, it’s enough to make one long for that uncomfortable conversation about the clashing of African-Americans and Jews.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.