When Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill came together to write a comedy about a Black woman and Jewish man who fall in love, decide to marry, and suddenly find their parents either objecting to their proposed union or making it really weird, it was impossible to not view the project as a riff on, or an outright remake of Stanley Kramer's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Considering that Kramer's film has aged like a Kroger cheese plate in the sun, and the 2005 remake, despite being a modest box-office success, is only referenced nowadays when people lament that Kramer's film ever existed, a smart director would likely, aggressively deny any influence or association.
Still, watch the movie: if "You People" isn't a post-Obama spin on Kramer's film, what exactly is it? Barris is happy you asked. He had another Hollywood film on his mind, one that was actually good, and recently had its own updated remake.
Barris Went Minnelli Instead Of Kramer
According to an interview with Simon Thompson for Forbes, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was the furthest thing from his mind when Kenya Barris got to work on the script with Jonah Hill — though he understands why people are so quick to compare the two movies. Still, he thinks their aims and framing are entirely different. As Barris told Thompson:
"The rules are so reversed. That was race-based, and this is culture-based. 'You People' was based upon seeing characters that we haven't seen who are the Black guy who doesn't want his Black daughter to marry a white guy because he feels like he raised a princess. There's the liberal woke mom who really wants this because she secretly fetishizes it in a different kind of way."
Barris viewed "You People" as a wedding movie, so he looked to one of the most beloved comedies from this subgenre. "If I watched anything ..." he said, "Something I watched was 'Father of the Bride,' but when I'm writing things, I try to stay away from things that inspire me because they often will rub off and dilute your own personal freedom."
Kenya Barris' statement tracks. Though I personally think "You People" is a kind-hearted, reconciliation-minded "Get Out," the never-more-than-perturbed tone is a latter-day complement to Vincente Minnelli's 1950 original "Father of the Bride" and the 1991 Charles Shyer/Nancy Meyers remake of the same name. There's a good deal of critical consternation out there about Barris' movie's lack of an edge, but the creator of "black-ish" has always leaned toward inclusiveness. He wants to bring people together in an honest manner, where people regard each other with good faith.
The parents here are products of a strange era. One set has its guard up, the other couple is basically exoticizing their potential daughter-in-law. Our problems are so much bigger than this, but there's nothing wrong with Barris and Jonah Hill speaking from wide-open hearts. "You People" presents a best-case scenario, one worth wishing for, even if it isn't exactly in line with how the situation would likely play out in real life.
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