You People wants to be a modern day Millennial version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. We already got this similar reversal premise with the 2005 Guess Who with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher in a more sitcom setting where a white man is dating a black woman and the Mac plays the father who questions their relationship.
You People features Jonah Hill and Lauren London as the interracial couple who must deal with their family and friends who have questions. Even in 2023 there is still some skeptism and looks among interracial couples. But this seems to go overboard. The kicker is that Hill’s Ezra Cohen is Jewish while London’s Amira Mohammad is Muslim. And now, we got religious difference thrown in to create more stereotypes. The first 15 minutes where we’re introduced to Ezra’s family seems like Mel Brooks wannabe wrote the sequence as Ezra is not interested in attending a Yom Kippur ceremony.
Richard Benjamin, Elliott Gould and Hal Linden all appear in this sequence because the filmmakers apparently didn’t think audiences would believe they were Jewish unless they made it full of Jewish Stereotypes. Later in a scene that doesn’t seem the least bit plausible, Ezra mistakes Amira’s Mini Cooper for his frequent Uber driver and gets in her car outside his office. They fight and argue in unrealistic fashion. He tells her that the driver is a black woman which is why he made the mistake. They argue some more in what’s suppose to be comedic fashion but you sense Hill and London tried to have the last joke and director Kenya Barris just forgot to say “Cut!” To say this scene goes on longer than it should is redundant. Someone who got into the wrong car would be embarassed and apologize and get out.
Eventually, they hook up and have unrealistic discussions as couple. Not one single line of dialogue between the two seems like that of a normal couple. And neither does any other line of dialogue. Ezra and Amira go to meet his parents, Arnold (David Duchovny) and Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who turn the cringe factor up. Shelley seems to constantly act like an aunt at a holiday dinner trying not to sound offensive but actually more offensive. And not one thing they mention around Amira is a believable.
Worse, is when we see Amira’s parents, her father, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) is played as the ultra-strict angry black Muslim. He’s the typical stereotype who sees Ezra as the “white devil.” And because every scene in the movie is about Ezra or Amira being placed in uncomfortable scenes where the racial tension is on full display. At a bachelorette party for Amira, her friends seem to have the Tyler Perry/Living Single MmmmHmmm style of women who see Shelley and say, “Who’s the white woman?” even with her hearing it. And then, there’s a scene where Ezra and Akbar go to a barbershop where Ezra is wearing a red hoodie and everyone there is wearing blue. So, I guess the barbershop is owned and operated by the Crips? That only makes it’s worse.
If you’ve seen this type of movie before, you know where it’s headed. Eventually, Ezra and Amira have enough of each other’s families and their behavior and break-up. But, a few months later, they make up with some hokey scene of Akbar and Shelley admitting they’ve been awful but will be better. What the fuck? Movies like this are often foolish with this behavior, but this movie adds racial context to it which is worse. There is not one likeable person in this movie.
Ezra especially is a overgrown, aimless putz. He has his own podcast with his black woman friend, Mo (Sam Jay), and thinks that makes him black. Worse, they have to throw in a joke that Mo is mistaken for a man you know because Jay is a lesbian and what white man would be friends with a black gay woman? And the podcasts between Ezra and Sam are worse than the rest of the movie. Ezra is basically the Seth Green character from Can’t Hardly Wait squared multiplied by Jamie Kennedy’s Malibu’s Most Wanted and adding by Kevin Federline squared.
What’s worse than dialogue seems to be about race and religion is there are so many pop culture references that it makes me cringe more. And of course, nothing but rap, hip-hop and R&B have to play on the soundtrack. Ezra behaves like he’s in some 1990s gangsta rap world in the suburbs of Bakersfield but never got the memo that isn’t funny anymore nor was it every funny. Since Hill wrote the script with Barris (who created Blackish), they didn’t bother to give Amira much of a personality. Everything about her is either about her race or her gender. She’s a designer but that is never examined without a connection to her race or gender.
And then there are the scenes between Akbar and his wife, Fatima (Nia Long very much underused), and Arnold and Shelley. These interactions look more like they’re suited for Jerry Springer. Arguments arise over which was worse the Holocaust of the enslaved of African people for centuries. These are not conversations you have with people you just met for a dinner party.
I remember how Kumail Nanijiani handled a scene in The Big Sick where Ray Ramono plays a man from North Carolina who doesn’t know how to casaully talk to his daughter’s friend, who’s Indian and Muslim, so he asks him for his thoughts on 9/11. The scene works because, the reaction of Nanijiani’s character as well as Holly Hunter’s whose trying so hard not to ruin the take by laughing. There’s a joke thrown in that’s hilarious and that’s that. There’s hardly any good jokes here.
Louis-Dreyfus and Murphy are the biggest disappointments. This is especially a low point for Murphy and one of his worst roles. What sucks is he played this character better in a skit he performed when he hosted Saturday Night Live shortly before Christmas 2019. It also looked at the interracial tension that might exist in families. London, on the other hand, needed a better movie to be in. I feel Hill will look at this more with his similar attitude that “there’s something wrong with the critics.” He’s been playing this same character for 15 years now mostly, with a few gutsy changes. He’s one of these actors who feels always has to be on.
Ironically, his better roles (Moneyball and even his cameo in Django Unchained) are when he’s not the center of attention. Maybe he should look at why that is.
What do you think? Please comment.