HOLLYWOOD—When you have a comedic genius like Eddie Murphy in a movie you expect it to be funny and a solid movie. Well, that is not always the case, as Murphy’s latest outing with the Netflix comedy “You People.” I REALLY thought this movie was going to be something special, I mean Murphy the king of comedy back on the big screen in a comedy that is rated-R offering him the chance to be as wicked and vicious with his tongue as possible, what could go wrong? A lot people. This comedy, crafted by “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris and comic funnyman Jonah Hill is a social commentary on race relations in America with a comedic twist. The problem is “You People” is having a moral dilemma: do I want to be a funny film or point out everything that is wrong with the world.
This could have been something special because it has an all-star cast that includes Murphy, Jonah Hill, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lauren London, Nia Long, Sam Jay, Deon Cole, Mike Epps, David Duchovny, Rhea Pearlman, Anthony Anderson, Kym Whitely and a host of others. These are some funny and talented people here America, but those talents are not used as much as they could be.
The narrative follows Ezra (Hill) and Amira (London), who meet by chance accident in an Uber mishap. The two slowly begin to develop a relationship that flourishes over time. There is just one problem: Amira is Black and Muslim and Ezra is White and Jewish. They both love each other and Ezra has prepared to propose marriage to Amira, there is one slight problem: he hasn’t asked Amira’s parents for their permission, particularly his father, Akbar (Murphy).
Murphy’s character is a bit dramatic throughout the entire movie; very little comedic moments are grasped form this iconic actor and I don’t understand if this was purposefully per the script, or Murphy just holding back. There are those moments of gems that deliver the laughs and as a viewer I wanted a bit more and if that envelope was pushed I think this flick would have excelled even more. Akbar is all about preserving his culture and testing Ezra to see if he can ‘handle’ the culture that he converses so much about on his podcast with his bestie Mo (Sam Jay), who is absolutely hilarious. There is a scene with Mo, Akbar and Ezra on a plane that left me in absolute stitches. Jay is indeed the MVP of the film in my opinion and should get more accolades than she does.
Long is a wasted talent as Fatima, Amira’s mother, who really has nothing to do. The same is echoed for Arnold (Duchovny), who portrays Ezra’s father who does all to ‘connect’ with Amira by talking about the Black culture way more than he should. However, I think a big scene stealer is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Shelley, Ezra’s mother, who never afraid to embarrass herself and her attempt to ‘bond’ with Amira by connecting with her culture, even though she is constantly saying the wrong things and putting her foot in her mouth more times than I can count.
“You People” does discuss a difficult topic, race in relation to relationships. How people behave and react in foreign situations and having to have those tough conversations about race, religion and politics that we hope to ignore because we don’t like that uncomfortable. Are there moments that make you cringe? Yes, but not as much as I expected. My biggest concern is the same joke is beaten over and over again like a dead horse. If it wasn’t funny the first time, it’s not going to be funny the second time or the third time or the fourth time. Repeating the same joke or premise multiple times becomes stale people and writer/director Kenya Barris didn’t catch that note.
Barris does something with the transitions that are just annoying. It felt like bad editing as I felt like I was watching a TV comedy series not a movie and it took me out of the film for seconds at a time as I adjusted. If “You People” would have picked a concrete narrative theme it wanted to focus on and stuck with it this comedy would have excelled expectations. You can’t be a social commentary flick about race relations, but teeter here and there at points, then go back, but then push again. If you push the issue, push it fully without apologies and let the audience feel that uneasy feeling and not stray from it, especially when you’re delivering laughs there are no limits or are there?