You People review: culture clash comedy drags its feet

You People - Eddie Murphy and Jonah Hill
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When Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London) decide to get married, they’ll have a tough time bringing their parents along for the ride in Netflix’s latest buddy-rom-com hybrid.

It’s fair to say that straight-to-streaming romantic comedies don’t have the best reputation in critical circles. For every Palm Springs or Your Christmas Or Mine there’s a whole host of sadly forgettable fare, often at odds with the star power the scripts manage to attract.

Enter You People, penned by star Jonah Hill alongside director Kenya Barris, Netflix’s latest attempt to buck that trend. Billed as a sort of Eddie Murphy-Hill buddy movie, the film is actually more of a typical rom-com than you might expect. And it goes after the ripest (and scariest) comedic target known to middle America: meeting the in-laws! Yikes!

You see, when young couple Ezra and Amira decide to get hitched, they’ll finally have to introduce each other to their respective families – his Jewish (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and David Duchovny), hers black Muslim (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long). Cue a bit of a culture clash, as Louis-Dreyfuss and Murphy seem intent on being as insensitive as possible. Will everyone be able to look past their differences and reconcile in time for the big day? We sure hope so!

The conflicts at the centre of the film are actually pretty well-observed, and hint at the complicated knottiness of the issues in-keeping with the movie’s naturalistic style. The cast, too, stacked as it is with US comedy royalty, are pretty universally great, while Hill and London between them have enough chemistry and charm to sell the ‘rom’ part of the equation perfectly well.

Where it all falls apart a little bit is the joke department. While a couple of set pieces are well-executed, most bits just drag on for far too long, the film’s realism making them seem far less polished and far more improvised than they probably are. The length problem stretches to the whole picture, actually: at almost two hours, it’s difficult not to lose patience with the jokes about trendy smoothie cafes and comparing Ezra to different eras of Drake, which really don’t do much to drive the plot forward.

The soundtrack is pretty catchy though, even if it is all-to-often used to accompany snappily edited montages which skip over a lot of the relationship building needed to sell a film like this properly. More than anything, it just adds to the sense that what You People really needed was an appointment with a big pair of editor’s scissors, which would lessen some of the more self-indulgent references sneaking into a film so seeped in hip-hop culture.

Still, Hill and Murphy have remained pretty popular over the years for a reason, and it would come as no surprise to see You People climbing up the Netflix Top 10 later this week. There’s a good heart, and enough freshness in the script that, for anyone looking for a cringe-comedy inflected sparring match between two comedy megastars, this will just about scratch that itch. Unfortunately, though You People tries to contribute to a discussion of cultural clashes in an interesting way, the comedy part of the equation never quite holds up. This streaming-comedy curse doesn’t look to be breaking anytime soon.

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