You People begins with podcaster Ezra (Jonah Hill) and his cohost Mo (Sam Jay) having a chat about the former’s relationship status. They compare it to the various albums of Drake as far as his moods (looking for love Drake vs. party boy Drake). It sounds like the idea of a conversation you’d have in a movie screenplay before the scribes try for authenticity. Hill and cowriter/director Kenya Barris (creator of sitcom black-ish) rarely get to the authenticity part as this race and family relations concoction feels overly workshopped. There are glimpses in the third act, but what a waste of talent for so much of it.
Ezra’s heart is taken by Amira (Lauren London) after mistaking her for his Uber driver. The couple’s meet cute quickly elevates to an engagement and the meet the parents business complicates the bliss. His are Julia-Louis Dreyfus’s doting Jewish mom Shelley and hubby Arnold (David Duchovny), whose lines are 90% describing 90s rapper Xzibit. Hers are devout Muslim Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and wife Fatima (Nia Long). Ezra’s streaming show is about cultural interactions. Those of the in-laws could fill a season’s worth of content.
The problem is it’s not profound and feels rather tame. A lunch table talk about the ebony and ivory aspects of Forrest Gump is shrimpy in its impact. Same goes for when Ezra is stuck in the car with his future father-in-law as a Jay-Z/Kanye track using a forbidden word comes up. These are sitcom level situations with the humor stuck in bland-ish gear.
A cast filled with familiar faces do add some welcome laughs. Small contributions from Mike Epps as Akbar’s degenerate brother and Molly Gordon as Ezra’s exasperated sister help. Barris and Hill manage to inject a little emotion in the waning moments that could satisfy ardent rom com devotees.
For the most part, You People is listless. The biggest surprise is the term applies to Murphy’s performance. The legend is usually the spark plug even in his mediocre pics. This recalls his lethargic work in Beverly Hills Cop III more than anything else. When that’s the comparison I’m making with his filmography, the heat is off when it comes to his normal firepower.
** (out of four)