Movie review: Barris-Hill collaboration 'You People' works better as … – The Janesville Gazette

It’s not quite peanut butter meeting jelly, but the idea of Kenya Barris and Jonah HIll getting together to make a movie is pretty appealing.
Barris is the creator of the well-received and recently concluded ABC sitcom “Black-ish” and its spin-offs, “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish.” His feature-writing credits include 2017’s hilarious “Girls Trip.”
Hill is the comedically gifted actor known for movies ranging from “Superbad” to “The Wolf of Wall Street” to “Don’t Look Up.”
Their entertaining-but-uneven new collaboration, “You People,” is hitting Netflix after debuting a week earlier in select theaters. They co-wrote the romantic comedy, with Hill co-starring — alongside Lauren London — and Barris making his feature directorial debut. In it, Black meets white and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Muslim faith clashes with Judaism.
What could go wrong?
For Hill’s Ezra Cohen and London’s Amira Mohammed, falling in love is the easy part. Dealing with the other’s family, though, may make a lifelong commitment impossible.
Ezra works in finance, but this hip-hop-and-sneakers-loving cat’s passion is chopping it up on the podcast he does with Black best friend Mo (Sam Jay), “The Culture Shift.” (“You People” begins with their unique conversation about former President Barack Obama.)
Ezra — or, as Mo calls him, “EZ” — is desperate to fall in love, to find that “deep happiness connection,” but Mo says he’s too consumed by it.
“If I’m being honest about our friendship,” he counters, “I feel like you’re being a bit Pusha T right now towards me, and I need you to be more Future towards me. I need a collaboration, not a diss.”
His world changes when he mistakenly gets into Amira’s briefly parked car. Trying to find her way to work, she’s understandably frightened and angry, but Ezra promises that while it may seem like “a racism,” it isn’t — that the Uber driver has a similar car and, yes, despite how it sounds, looks just like her.
“This is like a 23andMe situation,” he pleads. “I want to introduce you guys.”
She looks at the driver’s picture and believes him, and, as her talking GPS makes clear she is lost, he offers to help her get where she’s going, as he knows the area well.
A date follows. And then another and another. Soon, they’re official.
Half a year passes without introductions to families.
Finally, he brings her to his Jewish parents’ home, where his mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), simply oozes try-hard, going so far as to offer up for discussion the treatment by police toward suspects. Meanwhile, his more-laidback dad, Arnold (David Duchovny, “The X-Files”), works to establish how much he enjoys the rapper Xzibit.
Ezra plans to propose to Amira — which, to her credit, excites Shelley — but because Amira hasn’t introduced him to her proudly Muslim parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long, “Fatal Affair”), he decides to ask them to lunch to ask for their blessing.
It … does not go great.
Here’s what you need to know about Ezra: He’s a good dude; he also can be nervous and awkward, and he gets himself into trouble early and often by telling Akbar what he believes the stern man wants to hear, regardless of exactly how wildly untrue the fact may be. This does not endear him to his potential future father-in-law, who runs Ezra through the ringer, at least in part for his own amusement.
Amira, meanwhile, is frustrated by Shelley’s efforts to try to be hip and cool via her repeated attempts to be understanding of Amira’s Blackness instead of seeing her for the woman she is at her core. Shelley makes screw-up after screw-up but mostly sees herself as navigating these tricky waters well.
For perhaps as much as its first third, “You People” is a delight, as Amira and Ezra are constantly cute together, thanks largely to the chemistry of London (“This Christmas,” “Without Remorse”) and Hill.
And the movie is downright hysterical when seemingly effortlessly funny Louis-Dreyfus (“Seinfeld,” “Veep”) and Hill share the screen. Some of Hill’s line deliveries when Ezra is embarrassed by his mother truly are perfect.
Perhaps by necessity, the affair is less of a joy when it’s Hill and Murphy (“Coming to America,” “Dolemite Is My Name”) together. Hill isn’t nearly as fun in liar mode, and while Murphy has a firm grasp on his hard-to-impress character, portraying Akbar requires him to use almost none of his immense comedic talents.
After its strong start, “You People” meanders about, eventually leading to the crisis you’d expect and the resolution that, naturally, would follow. And yet as predictable as all of this is, the screenplay by Barris and Hill nevertheless manages to mine some emotion from these moments.
“You People” is only a so-so examination of whether Black and white people truly can live together in harmony; its late-game attempt to zero in on this question feels halfhearted if also well-meaning.
But when you scrape all of the heavy stuff away, to its rom-com bones — this is ultimately a movie about a guy and a gal who fall in love — “You People” should work for a wide range of folks.
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‘YOU PEOPLE’
2.5 stars (out of 4)
Rated: R (for language throughout, some sexual material and drug content)
Running time: 1:58
How to watch: On Netflix Friday
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©2023 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio). Visit The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) at www.news-herald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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