'You People' finds a way to make Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus not funny
There is so much talent involved in “You People,” a new romantic comedy that’s getting a one-week run in theaters before scooting off to Netflix.
And so few laughs.
It’s not just that the jokes aren’t funny, or that they’re given to genius comic actors like Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to deliver — which has to be some kind of pop-culture crime — the bigger issue is that there's not a single instance of recognizable human behavior in the entire film. There is some movie behavior, sure, the kind of overdone artifice that someone somewhere on some planet must think is funny.
Just not this one.
'You People' strains to be culturally relevant, but gets mired in bad comedy along the way
What’s worse, it appears that the filmmakers are trying to be culturally relevant, something at which they have about as much success as they do making funny jokes.
It’s simply not much of a movie.
Jonah Hill, who co-wrote the script with director Kenya Barris, plays Ezra. He works in finance but his real dream is to hit it big podcasting with his friend Mo (Sam Jay). He is 35 and not married, which is the source of no little consternation to his family, as he is reminded during a service at his synagogue.
One day Ezra leaves work and hops in the back of a car he assumes is his Uber.
It is not. Instead it’s just a car being driven by Amira (Lauren London), a woman lost on her way to work. She is terrified, then reluctantly accepting of his directions and soon they are dating, because that’s the way romance works in movies like this and absolutely nowhere else in the universe.
Ezra and Amira love each other and want to get married.
But first there is the matter of meeting each other’s parents. His family is Jewish, hers is Muslim. This is not an impediment to either of them personally, but if there is anything bad movies have taught us, it’s that if there is a pebble on the side of the road to romantic progress, the story will veer off the path to find it.
It's awkward. Not funny awkward, just cringe-inducing awkward
Arnold (David Duchovny) and Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus) outwardly welcome Amira, but they try way too hard, what with Shelley expounding on her beliefs about how police mistreat Black people, Arnold’s complimenting Amira on her braids and whatnot. It’s so cringeworthy I felt like I’d ground my teeth down to nothing by the time it was over.
Of course, that’s the point — we’re supposed to see Shelley's misplaced good intentions. But it’s also supposed to be funny.
Meanwhile Akbar (Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), Amira’s parents, are openly disapproving of Ezra. They are Muslim and devoted followers of Louis Farrakhan.
“Are you familiar with the minister’s work?” Akbar asks Arnold and Shelley.
“Well, I’m familiar with what he said about the Jews,” Shelley replies.
And for a fleeting moment it appears that the movie is actually going to start being about something, not just a series of set-ups for too-obvious comedy tropes and sight gags. Until it immediately descends into a too-obvious comedy trope and sight gag.
So forth and so on, with an ill-fated bachelor party, an equally ill-fated bachelorette party and everyone generally behaving like idiots. At least until they don’t.
Only Lauren London has a character that behaves like a relatively normal person
That’s the thing — Ezra in particular is supposed to be this heart-of-gold guy, but he lies constantly. The parents, of course, are stereotypically set in their ways. Only Amira is afforded the chance to behave the way someone might in such situations, if such situations actually existed. Good for London for making something of the character.
Unfortunately, such heroic measures are not enough to save the patient. “You People” is unfunny on arrival.
'You People' 2 stars
Great ★★★★★ Good ★★★★
Fair ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★
Director: Kenya Barris.
Cast: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy.
Rating: R for language throughout, some sexual material and drug content.
How to watch: In theaters Jan. 20, then streaming on Netflix Jan. 27.