In an uneven comedy that’s reminiscent of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, “Peeples” offers a few laughs, a few unnecessarily offensive scenes and nothing very surprising.
This is not a Tyler Perry movie. He’s the producer, so that’s why his name is attached. It’s a raunched-up sitcom with the framework of a fish-out-of-water plot. It hits the right notes occasionally, then descends into silliness and crass scenarios that seem to be part of another film entirely.
Craig Robinson (television’s “The Office” and “Hot Tub Time Machine”) stars as Wade Walker, a musician who acts as a sort of counselor for children. He lives with his girlfriend, Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington, “Django Unchained”), an attorney who comes from a wealthy background. Wade is desperately in love with Grace, and they are happy together. But even after they have been together for a year, she seems scared to bring him home because he won’t meet her father’s high standards.
When Grace goes off to visit her parents for Moby Dick Day in Sag Harbor, Wade, coaxed by his brother Chris (Malcolm Barrett), decides to show up unannounced and then ask her to marry him. This of course sets the stage for disaster, beginning with Wade’s terrible first impression on Grace’s father Virgil (David Alan Grier). Virgil, a judge, runs his family sternly. He instantly dislikes Wade, although his wife Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson, “Lincoln”) appreciates Wade’s taste in music: He recognizes her from her glory days as a pop singer.
Grace has a couple of siblings with problems of their own, not to mention the secret that Wade discovers Virgil is trying to hide. The more Wade tries to ingratiate himself, the more he messes up the family’s plans and creates a negative image of himself, at least in the mind of Virgil.
I was expecting great things from this movie, not only because of its talented cast but also because it was written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism. She wrote two terrific screenplays for “Drumline” and “ATL,” both woefully under-seen films full of comedy and smart, interesting characters.
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This is a formulaic screenplay that seems thrown together, particularly compared to her prior work. Much of the comedy is contrived from forced sequences that don’t seem to be in keeping with the characters. There is one heart-warming scene worthy of “Drumline” or “ATL,” in which Merkerson’s character belts out a song and brings the group together for a short time.
Every screenwriter produces a clunker now and then. I’m still looking forward to more of Chism’s writing for the big screen.