God, I have MISSED this version of Jonah Hill — the riffing, slanging, offending, hip-hop-quoting, “best joke in the room wins” Jonah.
“You People” is a comic throwback, an all-star Jonah and Lauren and Nia, Julia and Eddie, Mike Epps and David Duchovny singing John Legend off-key at the piano farce that begins with a sprint, gets gassed far too often and yet still produces a lot of laughs, all of them packed into its funniest stretches.
It starts with a clever conceit, a flip, hip and seriously funny podcast where Mo (“SNL” writer/performer Sam Jay) and E-Z (Hill) riff on pop culture and the intersection of the races, often hilariously, always crossing boundaries.
A disease that’s gotten too “popular?”
“ALS made more money than LEBRON that year!”
Southern white racists?
“I didn’t like that they took Confederate flags outta NASCAR. I was like. ‘Nah, let’em have that.’ You take too much too fast, they out lookin’ for MEAT.”
But “The Mo (Jay) and E-Z Show” is just a tone-setter for the romantic comedy to come. E-Z is actually Ezra Cohen, a stock broker who dreams of the day when that podcast can be his only “thing.” He’s a 35 year-old with game and wit who doesn’t seem to click with the Jewish ladies from temple his mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, in rare form) sets him up with.
Then comes the “meet cute.” He gets into what he thinks is a Mini Uber. Amira (Lauren London of TV’s “Games People Play”) freaks out. A misunderstanding leads to a date.
Things are all romantic-comedy-montage-sweet right up to that moment, six months later, when he’s ready to get serious and neither has met the other’s family.
His mom tries ever-so-hard to be current in fashion and slang, but is a classic “tone-deaf” and tolerant liberal who’d consider herself “woke” if it weren’t for the grammar issues. Dad (Duchovny) is one of those “You ever meet?” guys who will ask any Black person if they know Xzibit. Or Magic Johnson.
Amira’s folks are Nation of Islam Muslims. Dad (Eddie Murphy) once got to spend quality with the anti-Semitic “Brother Minister Louis Farrakhan,” and Mom (Nia Long) isn’t having ANY comparison between The Holocaust and slavery.
As feelings are hurt, arguments begun and abandoned, “get to know” afternoons are sabotaged and comic cameos (Anthony Anderson, Richard Benjamin, Elliott Gould, Dean Cole, Rhea Perlman and Omar Epps) roll by, a few of them scoring laughs, you think “This is about to get GOOD.”
But “You People” only occasionally crosses that line or measures up to the laugh-filled opening, perhaps because the film doesn’t go back to that very funny, sharply-observed podcast often enough.
“You need some Drake energy, ‘Certified Lover Boy’ Drake…”
Murphy has a few zingers and moments, but his job here is to be mean, whitey-mistrusting (anti-vaxxer) and disapproving. Dreyfuss has an easier time of it playing unintentionally patronizing, “trying too hard.”
Singing along to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” in the car with Amira? THAT kind of “trying too hard.
The awkwardness always works, with Hill’s Ezra babbling lies and exaggerations to lay out his Black culture bonafides. Murphy’s Akbar (Epps plays his brother, the one who still calls him “Woody”) constantly tries to trip him up. Calling the “white boy” out on his street basketball prowess, dragging him into a Black barbershop (run by Anderson) in “the wrong ‘colors’ — that stuff plays.
I wanted to see and hear more from Epps, as he makes most comedies better, and his “Uncle EJ” labeling Ezra “White Barry White” is just...right.
But the bachelor/bachelorette parties are groaners, the obstacles to love too predictable.
Like Jonah’s Judd Apatow films, and like pretty much anything on Netflix, “You People” is overlong and that leaves room for it to turn unwieldy. Netflix’s suits treat “EDIT” like a four-letter word they should never use in front of filmmakers. But “People” starts with a blast and finishes with a lovely dash of grace.
The bottom line for any rom-com is “Should we root for these two kids to work it out?” “You People” passes that test, with London and Hill sharing great chemistry, giving this rough-edged comedy a sweet and charming core.
If you miss “that” Jonah Hill, and want to know how Jews have to remember to “Holocaust it down,” and the answer to that one-all important question, “So, do you hang out in th’hood all the time, or do you just come up here for our food and our women,” don’t miss it.
Rating: R, drug abuse jokes, profanity
Cast: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, David Duchovny, Sam Jay, Mike Epps and Anthony Anderson
Credits: Directed by Kenya Barris, scripted by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:58
Last time I checked it’s not funny to make fun of an incurable disease like ALS that people still have no idea how horrible it is despite the ice bucket challenge and the tons of money that doesn’t go to people with ALS.
He didn’t make fun of the disease, he made fun of a fad that was used to raise money. But yes, he walked right up to the edge, thus the label “edgy” comedy.