You’d like to think we’d come some way since 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? But Kenya Barris’s You People has some uncomfortable similarities with its predecessor. It’s a rom-com about a mixed-race couple that doubles as a problem picture. Love is supposed to transcend and heal racial difference and racial animus—a glib moral that rather overwhelms the talented cast and the sporadically witty script.
The male lead of You People is Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill), a mid-30s Jewish finance worker who dreams of turning his hip-hop podcast into a cultural phenomenon. He has a meet cute with Amira Mohammed (Lauren London), a Black Muslim costume designer. Despite their differences, they hit it off splendidly—the only problem (as in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?) is the in-laws. Ezra’s motor-mouth mother Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is much less tolerant than she thinks she is and treats Amira as a kind of hip fashion accessory. On the other side of the wedding aisle, Amira’s father Akbar (Eddie Murphy) thinks Ezra is a white racist butthead and goes out of his way to bully and humiliate him.
The film is much more interested in social embarrassment cringe and gags than it is in any sort of close examination of how racism affects interracial couples. That might be okay if it weren’t also so earnestly bent on coming up with a statement about racism.
That statement is a familiar one: everybody just needs to learn from each other and be a little more tolerant and true love will make everything all right. It’s not enough for Ezra and Amira to be two people who want to be with each other; they have to transform their families and by implication the world as well. That was too much to put on any couple in 1967. It still strains credulity in 2023. R, 117 min.