Hill plays Ezra Cohen, the co-host of a podcast with a Black friend named Mo (Sam Jay) about racial differences. It’s one of those “chat about life/issues” podcasts, but even here Barris and Hill’s script sounds wrong right from the beginning. It’s as if they never listened to any podcasts with racial themes, overwriting the scenes with awkward dialogue that sounds so scripted (when the whole idea is that these podcasts are casual, off-the-cuff conversations). It’s also a lame set-up for what’s to come. The film seems like it has to say, “See, this guy has a good Black friend. Don’t worry about him.”
When he accidentally gets into the wrong car, thinking it’s his Uber, Ezra meets Amira Mohammed (Lauren London) and the two start dating. Cut to six months later, when Ezra has decided to marry Amira and so steels himself to ask permission from her parents Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long). Akbar immediately sizes up Ezra and decides he’s the wrong person for his daughter. He then tries to break Ezra, pushing him into sitcomish incidents designed to make him fail, whether it’s putting him on a basketball court, wearing the wrong gang color to a barbershop, or even tagging along on his bachelor party trip. Murphy plays it all insanely straight as if he’s in a drama about racial divisions. I’m all for not winking at the camera, but so many other performers in this film do so that it starts to feel like Murphy is in another one altogether. It’s just one of the broad tonal issues that get away from Barris as a director, who never quite figured out what movie he was making enough to convey it to his cast. No one is on the same page, creating a weird comedic disconnect from scene to scene and sometimes in the same beat.
Of course, there needs to be the other side of the coin in a movie like “You People,” and that’s represented in Ezra’s parents, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny). Duchovny mostly takes a back seat with a dry one-liner or two as Louis-Dreyfus plays the “other problematic parent” to Amira. Admittedly, the angle here is interesting regarding social commentary in that Shelley plays one of those women who sees Black culture in purely superficial terms. Late in the film, Amira claims that Shelley sees her like a new toy, and I wish the film had the guts to explore that idea more—how people like Shelley can be fascinated by Black culture but not in a way that ever seeks to understand it.