When I first watched the trailer for Kenya Barris’ latest film “You People” on social media, I grew excited to see the “black-ish” creator’s take on interracial dating.
The new Netflix romantic comedy starring Jonah Hill and Lauren London focuses on the budding relationship between Ezra Cohen, an awkward white stockbroker and podcaster, and Amira Mohammed, a confident Black fashion designer. As their relationship progresses, they struggle to move forward as their families come together and their differences seem impossible to overcome.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect seeing someone like Hill, who’s known for his roles in raunchy comedies like “Superbad” and “21 Jump Street,” starring opposite London, known for family dramas with all-Black casts like “ATL” and “This Christmas.”
I won’t lie, I was already laughing less than ten minutes into the movie, even at the most cringy and forced jokes. The film’s selling point is its humor, mainly coming from Ezra’s mother Shelley, a wealthy Jewish woman who is hilariously clueless about Black culture, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Between excitedly anticipating mixed-race grandchildren and randomly name-dropping Black athletes, Shelley’s attempts at appearing cultured and racially sensitive come off as woefully ignorant.
Another highlight is Ezra’s friendship with his best friend and podcast co-host, Mo. As a Black woman, Mo makes sure to let Ezra in on hard truths about the Black experience and what it takes to keep his relationship alive. I found myself enjoying their scenes the most, especially their conversation about which Drake album Ezra’s life was paralleling at the time.
Unfortunately, no amount of jokes can distract from the fact that there is absolutely no chemistry between Hill and London. It’s hard to take Ezra and Amira’s relationship seriously when they barely seem attracted to one another.
While “You People” succeeds in some areas, such as showing the difficulty Black and white partners may have in being accepted by each other’s families, the lack of connection between the leads makes the romance nonexistent. Even in moments meant to be heartwarming, I just couldn’t buy that they were in love.
An unexpected disappointment was Eddie Murphy’s performance as Amira’s father Akbar. Murphy is a stellar actor and comedian who I’ve loved in films like the “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise and “Coming to America.” For most of the film, Akbar is one-dimensional. He’s a stubborn, overprotective father who hates Ezra before he even gets the chance to know him. As someone I expected to be almost effortlessly funny, Murphy didn’t bring as many laughs as I’d hoped.
Perhaps the nail in the coffin was the scene depicting the dinner that Ezra and Amira organize to introduce their parents to each other. The Cohens and the Mohammeds inevitably clash and wind up in an incredibly inappropriate debate comparing slavery and the Holocaust that I wish I could unsee.
Overall, “You People” fails to meet its own expectations and ends up being a comedy that merely dabbles in romance. It’s a good choice if you want to laugh at ridiculous interactions between a few lovable characters and already understand every pop culture reference. If you want a believable love story, however, I wouldn’t recommend it.