Guess Who’s NOT Coming to Dinner
Less than 20 years after reprising his voice role as Donkey in “Shrek 2,” Eddie Murphy is back in another comedy to mimic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” called “You People.”
What do you mean “You People?”
I mean “You People” is the title of the movie.
I may be white, but I’m not a racist.
Anyway, it’s co-written and directed by Kenya Barris (“black-ish”) and also features some of our most appealing stars like Murphy, Jonah Hill (who co-wrote this), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, and Nia Long. So, this should have been a brilliant comedy. Instead, it misses the mark, and relies on the same kind of humor, regarding the white guy and the black girl. It’s supposed to be awkward, as if mixed relationships were never meant to happen.
Hill plays a Jewish accountant named Ezra, who also serves as a podcaster for a station that discusses about black culture with his cohost Mo (Sam Jay). It’s called the “The Mo & E-Z Show,” and maybe that’s what this comedy should have been about, especially when Ezra says “We talk about the culture,” and he’s asked “What culture?.” Make it a mockumentary that applies to all races, with jokes and messages we can all relate to.
He’s also in desperate need of a relationship, until he meets an African-American-Muslim girl named Amira (Lauren London) in an Uber mix-up. You know the kind when the driver accuses the white man of being a racist for assuming all Uber drivers are racial, until she realizes that she and his driver look alike. Despite that confusion, Ezra and Amira both hit it off.
He introduces her to his parents-the overbearing mom Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus), the low-key dad Arnold (David Duchovny), and the Lesbian sister Liza (Molly Gordon)-and he’s prepared to pop the question to her.
He has to meet her parents-Akbar (Murphy) and Fatima (Long) to ask for their blessing. Akbar responds: “You can try.” So, I guess that would mean “yes.” And when he asks Amira, she says “yes.” So, now we have both Jewish and African-American-Muslim cultures struggling to combine.
Instead of representing the valuable lessons of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” the jokes regard Ezra referring to celebrities of mixed races, like the G.O.A.T.-Malcolm X, and Shelley thinking a Hangman guess is the N word. At least, they eventually learn some lessons.
If you ask me, I think Murphy delivers as the would-be father-in-law, because of how he represents him in a low-key and stern manner, instead of reflecting on just his 80s attitude. He also has to dress up like a philosopher on black culture, because of his goatee, glasses, and the fact that his introduction has him wearing a “Fred Hampton Was Murdered” shirt. He has the same kind of tone as Robert de Niro in “Meet the Parents,” which makes him appealing in the role. And Louis-Dreyfus does some good timing as the mom with more zest than she presented in “Downhill.” Maybe the movie should have focused on their chemistry, especially since they were on “SNL” together.
Barris has the ability to make these themes look stylish and works with a number of great stars, but both he and Hill miss the mark on who their target audiences are supposed to be. The movie almost always has to assume that all white people are racists, because of how these African-American characters react to their appearances. I’m trying not to be offensive by writing this review, but I want everyone to acknowledge that people of all races can be equal, if they stopped being so hostile and discriminatory.
A movie like “Waves,” which didn’t get the kind of appreciation it deserves, never cared about the skin colors of Lucas Hedges or Taylor Russell. It cared about their personalities and their tragedies. A movie like “Coffee & Kareem,” which I hated, insulted the relationship between Ed Helms and Taraji P. Henson partly because of their skin colors. “You People” would be in the middle of those two in terms of my approval scale. But the better idea is to go back to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” If you’re in a different generation, and thought “Guess Who” was the original piece. Think again.
Now Playing in Select Theaters
Streaming on Netflix Next Friday