Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Tina Gordon Chism
Stars: Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier
Runtime: 95 min
The comedy genre produces a lot of stinkers. Peeples is a heartfelt movie about accepting people for who they are, and there are prominent themes of dishonesty and secrets; but this isn’t a secret: Peeples is comedy’s latest stinker.
It’s not that Peeples isn’t a funny movie, because you’ll probably chuckle more than a few times, but this is so familiar, that it should be renamed Meet the Peeples. It’s just what you’d expect; a bland, extremely predictable comedy. The plot follows Wade (Craig Robinson) who crashes the Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter Grace’s hand in marriage.
The thing is, Grace (Kerry Washington) hasn’t told her family about Wade, even though they’ve been dating for a year. Wade keeps trying to ask the father, Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), for Grace’s hand in marriage, but there always seems to be some forced situation blocking his way. Lunch is either being called, or Virgil can’t be bothered to talk to Wade, a man who uses songs to help kids with their problems. One of his songs informs kids that they must talk about their feelings, and not urinate on others, a way of seeking attention. (‘Speak it, don’t leak it’ guys.) It’s silly, and it’s not clear if Chism is trying to apply to adults, to make it a theme of the movie. If it’s there for that purpose, and it just isn’t some stupid song, it’s handled amateurishly. I’m sure grown people don’t pee on each other because they can’t communicate well.
The characters are afraid to say what they most desire. This is because the father rules the household with an iron fist. He’s a judge, but he’s also a textbook tyrant. He teaches his family that lying and dishonesty is frowned upon. The whole family is holding secrets, but so is Virgil. He’s the biggest hypocrite of them all, really. Grace Peeples is probably the biggest liar of the kids, and Washington is a likable screen presence, but her character is irritating. She says early on in the movie that she values honesty, but she’s been bending the truth toward Wade throughout their relationship. She never told her family about him. There are about five other big secrets she doesn’t think are worth a mention. Are we, the audience, really supposed to believe that Wade could so easily forgive her for all that? Who could deal with her authoritarian father? It’s not like he’s marrying her father, but… The family is insane, and if she has a hard time being honest, she wouldn’t be able to change so quickly. Some might have to kick this dishonest bitch to the curb, even if she does look mighty fine in a schoolgirl outfit.
The characters are generic, and because of this, it’s hard to care for them. Every occurrence is forced, and very little actually happens. It’s all about Wade trying to reach his goal of marrying Grace. Some of the hijinks enable jokes to produce some chuckles, but you’ll forget them as soon as you leave the theatre. This is a carbon copy of Meet the Parents, just with black actors. At least Robert De Niro is lots of fun and hilarious as the uptight father in Meet the Parents; Grier might seem like a good actor for this role, but his character is unlikable and rarely funny. I don’t think people staring uncomfortably at each other to be funny. The best character is a funny grandfather (Melvin Van Peebles – his last name really suits this role) who wears a cape from his college years. Craig Robinson is thankfully always charismatic, and he makes us laugh a few times – it’s great to see him step into a leading man spotlight, even in a bad film. Washington in a comedy is refreshing, but her straight woman role doesn’t let her have any memorable yuks. Malcolm Barrett (portraying Wade’s brother, Chris) is sometimes funny, and when he isn’t being funny, it’s because the stuff is so ridiculous it can’t force any laughs out of the audience. He should stick to drama because as Chris, he’s a hit-and-miss presence who really might frustrate you.
Some scenes that are supposed to be funny feel too awkward to force any laughs out of any audience. Tyler James Williams is trying very hard as a rapper/kleptomaniac, a character with little substance. The cinematography seems consistently out-of-focus, and I think this is a hard experience to finish. It’s boring, familiar and generic, and your attention might wander to fellow theatre patrons instead of the movie. This means well and it’s trying to be a heartfelt romp, but it feels bereft of sincerity; Chism doesn’t write one quality or genuine character interaction that feels natural.
No one will expect a masterpiece, but apparently writer-director Tina Gordon Chism thinks decent, familiar entertainment is too large of a request. This is a stupid and forgettable farce; every scene is uninspired, not a lot happens, but it might make you chuckle a few times. It’s really a disappointment, because this should at least be a decent time-passer. Chism might give us a poorly-constructed film, but the majority will unfortunately be pointing their fingers at Tyler Perry, the well-known producer who merely lends his name to the flick. Still, he does think movie-goers might actually like to spend 95 minutes of their life watching something they’ve seen eight times before.
Question: Is the title supposed to be some sort-of pun? I mean, it’s spelled pee-ples, and Wade’s main song is about kids urinating on each other…