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Ain’t nobody did the Tron wedding.


You People


Or Hegelian Theory in Action: The Movie. Can we people ever rise above the racial differences inscribed upon us, ones ensuring we forever keep our eyes off the ball? Not if Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill have any say in the matter. We’ll simply be plied with a pat palm off that, in any difficult situation, love can still find a way. The most mystifying part of You People is that any prospective parent-in-law would need a reason to disapprove of Jonah Hill joining the family beyond his being Jonah Hill, with the customary schtick on display here, it would be tantamount to welcoming boorish oaf Seth Rogen into hearth and home. 

Hill isn’t helping himself any with his general aspect. I doubt he’s anyone’s first choice for a romantic lead – unless the competition is Rogen – and he’s come out the other side of his crash weight loss looking a decade older, seemingly attempting to shroud it in a big beard, bad tan, frightful blonde highlights and some overbearing tats. He looks all over the place, basically, long before he dons a dayglo tie-dye sweatshirt ensemble. 

Which means Lauren London is clearly seeing the wonderful guy beneath the sprawling exterior. She’s much more classically pitch-romcom-perfect, as in, leave the comedy stuff to the guy. But she isn’t missing out very much, since most of the com stuff is strained/ obvious/ thin on actual laughs. The rom delivers the expected beats (romance montage, spanner in the works, reunion), and the hip-hop barrage on the soundtrack even makes way for some emotive strains occasionally.

This is Black-ish’s Barris’ first feature as director; if his writing gigs for the big screen have mostly been on the tepid side of sequels and remakes (Shaft, The Witches, Coming 2 America, Cheaper by the Dozen), he at least has the excuse that none of them were solo credits. Indeed, he can blame Hill here, if he likes, for the (racial) culture clash enfeeblement. Jonah’s Jewish Ezra is a stockbroker by day, but also co-presents a podcast about “the culture” with black lesbian best bud Mo (Sam Jay). This mostly consists of him – excruciatingly – laughing at every pearl that foams forth from her mouth.

The problems Ezra and Amira encounter in terms of interracial bliss are with the parents, evidently. White Hat Eddie Murphy is called upon to work against his strengths as faux-militant Muslim Akbar; he can do the stern looks while Hill goofs off, but far more engaging are his scenes with Mike Epps as his brother EJ. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in her element, in contrast, as all-round embarrassing designer-liberal mom Shelley, attentive to the cultural engineering that proudly emblazons fashionability of status: she has a lesbian daughter (“She’s L-G-B-T”) and now, “Oh my God! I’m going to have black granddaughters!

Both parts are caricatures, which means the emotional showdowns, where Akbar is called out for being an asshole – but obviously, caveated with “I will never, ever, ever know what it’s like to be a black person in this city” – and Shelley for treating Amira like “a toy… a black token daughter-in-law”, mean absolutely nothing. What matters is that, while the Cohens are ignorant white folk, they aren’t the kind of ignorant white folk Barris doubtless had in mind on Black-ish when his characters were “terrified” as a consequence of Trump’s election.

Mostly then, as far as indulging the Hegelian construct is concerned, this is pretty toothless. I’m wondering, since he’s barely there and his entire crutch is nursing a yen for Xzibit, if David Duchovny is now clone David Duchovny; it might have been fun to see him interacting with Murphy, since Duchovny could be a witty guy, but there’s none of that. Still, the dinner scene between the various family members (including Nia Long as mum Fatima) is amusing, with Akbar asking how up the Cohens are on Louis Farrakan (“Well, I am familiar with what he said about the Jews”), competing positions on racial suffering (“Are you trying to compare the Holocaust to slavery?”) and Jewish people doing pretty well for themselves (“Well, it’s not like we don’t work hard for it”). But there’s an inevitable tameness here, a shyness to do – or say – anything really anarchic with the concept, so making You People all a little indifferent and anaemic. 

Indeed, “prospective father-in-law impresses himself on Vegas bachelor party and makes it dull” is the least interesting of all options (what if Eddie had fun, say?) Somehow, Jonah is really good at basketball. The repose here is always going to be the standard, because it’s Hollywood. So assumed racism (coming from Ezra’s family) and deserved racism (coming from Amira’s). It’s left to Mo to offer some wisdom in the Soros-sponsored biosphere: “Black people and white people will never be cool. We can’t forget what y’all did and what y’all still doing”. Yeah, erm. Preach. 

Still, as with some other recent Netflix offerings, there are a few moments worth earmarking amid the general inertia. You People kicks off with a tacit admission that Barack and Big Mike are a thing, as Ezra and Mo discuss “fantasy” Obamas (“Does your Barack do coke to excuse his gay stuff?”) Then there’s cynical manipulation of Holocaust sympathies, with the suggestion that Ezra tell Amira her engagement ring is a gift from his “Holocaust survivor” grandma (“Once you drop the Holocaust, they’re like…”) I also quite like his ingrained superficiality in priorities when getting down on one knee to propose (“Let me just take off my shoe so I don’t crease it”). 

There are several references to the jab too: “So it’s not bad enough that y’all make me get a vaccine so I can go into the casino. Now y’all coming for my kids?” protests Akbar. Now, there would be something for Ezra and Mo to discuss during their otherwise unilluminating culture conversations: the entirely commendable shunning of the jab by African-Americans. Later, during festivities, one of Ezra’s friends suggests “The vaccine… makes you gay”, presumably a guarded nod to conspiracy theories (as in, throw in one really out there, since anything less is probably true). I guess you just have to take what you can get with Netflix (there’s also a reference to “Him and Joe Rogan” in relation to podcast venerability. Him being Ezra).

Elliot Gould has a tiny cameo. We hear mention of deviancy in the community with regard to Dr Green (Richard Benjamin), Ezra’s old orthodontist. A curious one, since Ezra has clearly been hit on while his mother – shown to be wrong about everything – protests the legal system and “innocent until proven guilty”. Such a position being, obviously, the opposite of #MeToo’s ethos. That’s Hegelian Theory in Action for you, though.

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