Peeples (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Wade Walker (Craig Robinson) is a children’s entertainer who writes songs about things like urination, he dreams of one day using this as a stepping stone into a career as a counselor. He is supported by his loving girlfriend Grace (Kerry Washington), a wealthy lawyer for the U.N. who hails from a prestigious family that Wade refers to as ‘the black Kennedys’. After a year of dating he still has yet to met Grace’s family, including her uptight father Judge Peeples (David Allen Grier). One night Grace explains that she must return to the Hampton’s for a weekend retreat with her family, only thing is Wade isn’t invited.

A quick conference with his inquisitive, motor mouth brother Chris (Malcom Barrett) and Wade decides that surprising Grace and her family at their estate will be the perfect time to propose marriage. So he sets off to the Peeples residence, yet when he arrives it becomes abundantly clear that Grace has never mentioned him to the clan. Setting off a long and awkward weekend with the hyper-protective, controlling and competitive Judge. Along the way Wade is exposed to various indignities induced by Grace’s unwillingness to stand up to her over-bearing father. Exposing a central problem with the entire film, Grace is a loose woman with no backbone and other than the fact the she is portrayed by the beautiful Kerry Washington, we can’t understand why Wade would want to marry such a person.

Malcolm Barrett plays Chris Walker, wade’s younger brother who has his hormones charged by the sight of Grace’s beautiful, closet gay sister Gloria. Barrett is hilarious in his delivery and mannerisms and he makes the absolute most of his screen-time, similar to Kevin Hart’s bit appearances in studio films a decade ago. In a non-sensical cameo is the original Peeples, that’s Melvin Van Peebles, godfather of Blaxploitation cinema.

Peeples (itself an unsuccessful verbal pun) is a movie in which the audience can forecast the gags in advance, and director Tina Gordon Chism’s clumsy handling of timing offsets Craig Robinson’s hard-working execution in a sluggish would-be comedy that reflects the dubious state of the genre. It’s clear, early on that Robinson is the funniest thing about this silly unnecessary comedy. As expected with any film saddled with the Tyler Perry moniker, there is little here but predictable gags and low humor, but if you’re in the mood, it has its moments. David Alan Grier shows he still posses reflexive comedic timing and makes the most out of a few bits.

Kerry Washington is a captivating screen presence with an ability to make her characters instantly likable and caring, yet she is given very little to work with here. After exposing emotion depths in last year’s Django Unchained, Washington is called on to play one of the year’s most unappealing romantic leads. I would like to see her and Craig Robinson recast in a different comedy that presents them with a better script, there is no reason to think they couldn’t be the next Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan combo.

Director: Tina Gordon Chism
Stars: Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Allen Grier

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