Meeting the parents for the first time is a daunting task; it’s the first indication to them that your relationship is serious, and depending on how it all goes could have a bearing on your relationship with them going forward. So no pressure then.
No wonder it’s a scenario that appears on film with a fair amount of regularity.
This film gives it an added twist, by giving it the mixed race angle, which can take the whole meet the parents thing to a new level completely.
Working in the financial sector is 35-year-old Ezra (Jonah Hill). It’s a job that doesn’t make him happy though, as he pines to make a career hosting a podcast with his best friend Mo (Sam Jay).
What does make him happy however is when he meets Amira (Lauren London). They get on, so much so, that they end up becoming a couple.
Although Ezra is Jewish and Amira an African American, their differences in cultures isn’t an issue, for them at least. But when you introduce their families, with Ezra’s fairly orthodox and Amira’s Muslim background, their relationship suddenly becomes awkwardly complicated.
This is the directorial debut for Kenya Barris, who is better known for being the creator of TV’s Blackish. His TV background is evident here, as it feels like a TV sitcom with delusions of grandeur, and sadly that’s all they are – delusions.
The ‘meet the parents’ scenario has been done umpteen times before, even including a franchise going by that very same title, so if you are going to have a go, bring something different to the party.
Barris brings the ever present race issue to the table, which is a good call, on paper at least, but it’s just the execution that lets it down.
This film is as generic as it gets, lacking any sense of originality at all. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the impressive cast involved, that not only includes Hill, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and David Duchovny as his on screen mum and dad, but also the legend that is Eddie Murphy.
Even if his last film, 2021’s Coming 2 America was a huge disappointment, having someone of Murphy’s calibre in your film is a big deal. But only if you make uses of his comedic abilities, which sadly go AWOL here. It beggar’s belief why you would cast Murphy in a meaty role and then have him deliver a generic role in a generic film.
The fact that it has both Hill and Murphy and still manages to lose any kind of edge is almost criminal.
There’s even an attempt to seem relevant by making the lead character a podcast host, but it adds absolutely nothing to the film overall, and just feel crowbarred in for the sake of being interesting.
What could have been a sharply observed comedy about race relations quickly reduces itself to a fairly bland, run-of-the-mill effort that really has nothing much to say about anything.
And when you consider what an impact Sidney Poitier and Katherine Hepburn made in 1967 with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, this is not only shallow and obvious by comparison, but also, considering the times we live in, a missed opportunity.
As a standard rom-com however, it does ok, albeit in an unremarkable fashion, but it has to be said Lauren London certainly shines as the love interest, with her and Hill, despite the obvious fact that she’s way out of his league, still managing to come across as a cute couple.
It’s the type of film that certainly could have done with some real bite, and you can’t help but think that in someone else’s hands, a Spike Lee for example, it could have fulfilled its potential.
It’s a film then that not only your parents will disapprove of but everyone you know too. And that should tell you all you need to know.