Movie Review: As the first signature Netflix movie of 2023, “You People” sets the bar extremely low for whatever the streaming giant is planning. It’s incredibly unfunny and unapologetically shallow about every bit of social commentary it tries to muster up. I can’t believe Netflix let this hit their platform.
I’ve mentioned in a few reviews of late that January is usually not the best month of the year for movie theaters. Studios generally dump their fraught projects towards the beginning of the year so they can focus on either the big blockbusters for the summer, or the awards-y ones for the holiday season. Streaming services work in relatively the same fashion, which definitely explains why “You People” led Netflix’s set of signature releases to start 2023.
On the surface, “You People” should have some redeeming qualities. For starters, the cast is truly exceptional. Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are comedy legends, and there are enough new school talents throughout to bring in the younger audience as well. Jonah Hill plays a heavy hand in the writing and production here, and the likes of Lauren London, Travis Bennett, and Sam Jay are here too. Hell, even Nia Long makes a (short) appearance. How could “You People” possibly shutter and turn out messy and appalling?
Well, to put it mildly, it’s comical at times how lame and unapologetically shallow “You People” is. Instead of spending time on issues that plague society and pop culture in 2023, it tries to cram every political and social message into every cringy interaction. And when I say cringy, that feels like an understatement. The writing in “You People” flat-out sucks. There’s no nuance or commentary to any of the points this movie is trying to make, just recognition.
I’m shocked to see how many genuinely funny and successful actors and actresses are in “You People” given how rough and unfunny the script is. Eddie Murphy has been marketed as the big draw for the movie, yet he’s easily the most understated performer in it. He’s somehow simultaneously clearly in it for the paycheck and the best part about “You People,” but that just might speak for how excruciating nearly every other character is in the movie.
I can’t say Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t giving it her all as Jonah Hill’s mother, but it almost makes it worse seeing her try to bring to life the most jaw-droppingly tone-deaf character I’ve seen in quite a few years. Every interaction she has with Lauren London and her friends nearly made me mute the movie because you know exactly where it’s heading, and it’s not what anyone asked for. It’s almost 24 hours since I watched “You People” and I’m still shocked that Netflix released this and that everyone here took part in it.
Lauren London might be the lone bright light here – she’s particularly affecting and relatable. That might just be because everything else around her is so horrid, but it’s worth noting that she’s way more likeable than the rest of the characters. It is a bit awkward watching her get engaged and married to Jonah Hill while the film bumps Nipsey Hussle tracks in the background. I suppose she makes her own career decisions; that part just threw me off.
Travis “Taco” Bennett sprinkles in a few appearances throughout “You People,” and while I can’t say that he’s a particularly great performer, I’ve always found the charm in him from his earlier days in Odd Future and “Loiter Squad” and much of that same comedy rings through here. I truly despised much of this film, but he seemed to turn down some of that intensity when on screen and I appreciated that.
To finish off the gauntlet of masterminds behind this devious film, I’m simply baffled at what Jonah Hill came up with here. If you told me “You People” was a socially conscious movie written by the mind of “Sausage Party” and “21 Jump Street,” I can’t tell you that I would be surprised. It feels like a balancing act gone wrong from the opening scenes. The movie wants to be a sharp satire on relations between cultures in 2023, but instead it’s just an underbaked mess with few moments of genuine creativity.
Needless to say, I think I could’ve created a better script than this. No seriously, I really do. It’s that bad. I couldn’t conjure up a set of actors and actresses that could have made this movie semi-watchable. It’s the epitome of Netflix’s worst impulses. Just because it has stars and social criticisms doesn’t mean that it instantly works. “You People” whiffs on nearly every piece of “biting” commentary it’s going for and I’m honestly shocked that Netflix released it.
I’m sure we’ll get worse movies at some point this year, but “You People” was a treacherous start for Netflix’s set of big releases in 2023. It’s annoying and totally not worth your time or attention, but I’m assuming that if you’ve gotten this far, it may be too late already. We can all suffer together and try to recoup our losses as one big, sad set of moviegoers. Hard Pass!