Movie Review: If not for Eddie Murphy, this Netflix rom-com wouldn’t have much com

Already there’s a huge range of reactions to “You People,” which debuted on Netflix Friday after a week in a few theaters for appearance’s sake. Hilarious? Riotous? Hackneyed? Annoying? Are comic sensibilities really so various that nobody can agree whether the laughs and the heart are there with this thing, or not?

Well, no. We can’t agree. Comedy, like everything else in movies, has a tendency to divide, not unite. Surely most of us know the feeling of being the one not laughing in a laughing crowd, the Buster Keaton surrounded by hyenas.

Already raved up in early reviews, “You People” offers a few choice bits and throwaway lines served up by a first-rate cast — especially Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus — way, way out ahead of their material. For millions of eyeballs, they’ll be enough.

“Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris directed and co-wrote the Los Angeles-set “You People.” His co-writer, Jonah Hill, stars as Ezra, a 35-year-old stockbroker tired of his job and eager to develop his side hustle — a brash podcast on Black culture, which he hosts with his friend Mo (Sam Jay). She calls Ezra “my favorite Jew with nuthin’ to do”; he’s so devoted to their mutual love for the podcast’s subject, he’s like the brother Quentin Tarantino never had.

The topic their podcast hits on in every episode, inevitably, is simple: Can Black and white people in America today ever truly know each other? When lonely Ezra meets aspiring costume designer Amira (Lauren London), the question shifts from macro to micro. She’s the daughter of Muslim parents Akbar (Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), who do not love the idea of their only girl getting serious with a white man.

Ezra’s parents, meantime, are more receptive but also more embarrassing, especially Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus), married to podiatrist Arnold (David Duchovny, very much sidelined and near-silent in the final cut). In the first big fat awkward meetup with her future in-laws, Shelley broadcasts her sympathy with and understanding of the Black experience in ways that scream “Wake up! I’m woke!” “You know the national anthem?” she asks, as she’s being pushed out of the living room by her aghast son. “I think everybody should kneel!”

“You People” contrives obstacle after obstacle for Ezra and Amira, with the expected arrival of serious relational conflict around the two-thirds point. A rom-com’s predictability rarely dents a streaming audience’s enjoyment of anything. Predictable is comfortable. Still, without Murphy’s deadpan, steely reactions to the latest affront, “You People” would be all strain and little gain.


2 stars (out of 4)

Rated: R (for drug content, some sexual material and language throughout)

Running time: 1:57