Movies are attractive. Sometimes, it’s the fresh premise. Other times, it’s the esteemed director behind the wheel. However, nothing is more appealing than the promise of a good cast. Although we can have letdowns like Amsterdam, the faces you’ll see on screen are always a selling point for deciding what to watch on your Netflix queue. A comedy film starring Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brimming with potential and is sure to take you in. However, You People squanders that potential, offering a disappointing, unfunny comedy with a screenplay that never takes you anywhere enjoyable.
Do you remember that hilarious sequence in 22 Jump Street when Jonah Hill’s character dates a black girl and finds himself at an awkward dinner with her pissed-off father? This is a feature-length adaptation of that one funny idea, with Hill co-writing the screenplay with writer/director Kenya Barris, best known for creating black-ish and America’s Next Top Model. Despite his success in TV, he continues a string of duds in film, not reaching the heights he once reached in Girls Trip. This is a comedy where characters ramble for a long time, hoping that if they talk long enough, they’ll end up saying something funny, but they never do.
We’ve seen how funny Hill can be in his successful career of comedies, where he plays lovable characters put in awkward situations he needs to talk his way out of. The Jump Street movies are hilarious examples of his timing, and while there are moments of his brand in this film, you can hear the crickets chirping as the attempts at humor fall flat on their face. Instead of charming, funny dialogue, this movie gives you on-the-nose, grating characters having conversations artificially designed to overflow with racial tension between Jewish and black people.
Eddie Murphy is a titan of the comedy genre. His iconic roles in Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America cemented him as an all-timer, and in this movie, he plays a more quiet, introverted character. He’s less of the loudmouth and more of the straight man in this film, offering a deadpan, restrained comedic performance. It’s far from his funniest role, but it matches a film that feels like a combination of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Meet the Parents, with Murphy channeling his inner de Niro.
The issue here is the screenplay that reduces everyone to the long-standing archetypes. Hill plays the well-meaning awkward guy, and Murphy plays the stern father who wants the best for his daughter. Its commentary on race relations feels reductive when we have characters like Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus), who is so unbelievably clueless and tone-deaf that she comes off as a caricature of a white person. The conversations feel like they belong in a worse version of Get Out, as it expects you to laugh when all it’s doing is shoehorning in an awkward political debate over whether Jewish or black people have suffered more.
Beyond the fact that this is a cynical, earnestly political romantic comedy, everything surrounding the lack of laughs also fails. This is Barris’s feature directorial debut, and it’s clear from how every scene transition is filled with graphics and a song, a style that feels meant for TV and music videos and has no place in a film. The overbearing soundtrack is matched with a story lacking surprises or subtlety. Throw in the lack of chemistry between the two romantic leads and a few subplots with nearly no resolution, and you get a movie that earned a talented cast and gave them nothing to work with. You People features unlikable characters and a story so formulaic that the execution never rises above the witty, attractive comedy this could have been.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 3 equates to “Bad.” Due to significant issues, this media feels like a chore to take in.