Review by Camden Ferrell
In recent years, Kenya Barris has become one of the biggest names in television, creating shows like Black-ish for ABC. While extensive experience writing television shows and movies, 2023 marks his first feature directorial debut for You People. Written by Barris and Jonah Hill, this movie combines a talented cast and timely humor for a crowd-pleasing comedy that hits the mark more than it doesn’t.
Ezra works in finance with dreams of his podcast making it big when he meets Amira. They quickly fall in love and get engaged. With this, Ezra’s Jewish family and Amira’s Black family must come together. Quickly, everyone realizes the vast differences between different cultures and generations. This is a simple rom-com premise that has a modern spin on it with the way it analyzes race in modern America.
The film’s writing is quite good throughout even if it has some problems. Barris and Hill have some great and hilarious interactions in the movie, and this is due to some great one-liners or deadpan writing that sells the comedy. There are plenty of jokes that miss, but there’s usually a high enough volume of humor to compensate for what doesn’t land. The movie also does surprisingly well with capturing the more dramatic moments of the story without derailing the film’s tone and pace. It’s not particularly original or groundbreaking, but it’s good for what it is.
The cast is the best part of this movie. Jonah Hill leads the film with the same energy and comedic timing we’ve come to expect from him. It won’t win over any new fans, but it will satisfy already existing fans. Eddie Murphy co-stars as his soon to be father-in-law, and Murphy is as reliable as ever for some great laughs. Even when the material isn’t great, he can still sell the scenes he’s in. The movie features other great actors like Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nia Long, and David Duchovny who are all good in their own ways.
Some people might find the constant analysis of race relations as pandering and preachy, but I think the movie seamlessly blends that into the rest of the movie to make it feel naturally occurring. Nothing revolutionary is said about these issues, but the movie doesn’t really work without it. There are some great moments of cultures clashing that are done in a tasteful way, and it never feels like any group is punching down at another.
You People makes for an awkward but charming movie-viewing experience. It’s far from perfect, and it has many jokes that don’t feel very funny, but it’s clearly made with good intentions and will more than likely get some hearty laughs from all types of viewers. Barris’ directorial debut is solid if not great, and it showcases some great comedic chemistry from a talented group of actors.
You People is in select theaters January 20 and streaming on Netflix January 27.