By Gary Murray
Starring Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier
Written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism
Running time 95 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating—Free TV
Tyler Perry has become a brand name for African-American cinema. His Medea films have generated millions at the box office and his production company in Atlanta produces films and television series at an astounding rate. Now, Tyler Perry is presenting films done by others. Tyler Perry Presents Peeples is the latest.
The story is of Wade Walker (Craig Robinson). He’s an entertainer at children’s parties. As the film opens, he is singing a song about going to the bathroom to a group of kids who are way past the age of potty training.
Wade is living with Grace, a lawyer who has a judge as a father. They have a safe word to avoid any topic that Grace doesn’t want to discuss. Wade has a ring in his pocket and he’s ready to propose. He is encouraged by his brother who owns a doll hospital. The best moments of the entire film are between these two.
Grace has to go to the family beach house on the Eastern Coast to celebrate the town’s festival celebrating Moby Dick. Wade is not invited to the ceremony and has not met any members of the Peeple’s family. So, he decides to surprise her and drop in on her kin.
Once Wade arrives at the family home, he finds that he is very much out of his league. Judge Peeples (David Allen Grier) is a hard as nails man who believes that no one is good enough for his daughter. He demands loyalty from his family which includes his former soul singer of a wife and his other daughter who is on-air at CNN. Also visiting for the weekend is the sister’s college ‘friend’ who seems to be more than a close companion.
The more that Wade gets to know the family, the more he realizes that every member of the Peeple’s family has a secret that the rest of the family doesn’t know or recognize. Basically, the film should have been called Meet the Peeples because it weakly parallels Meet the Parents from 1992.
The film commits the worst sin of a comedy. It is just not funny. The movie just drags along and throws jokes up that simply fall flat before they get to the first row. There may have been two decent laughs in 90 minutes. It is painfully unfunny to watch
The cast still sparkles even with such weak material. Craig Robinson is as far away from being a leading man but still has big screen charm. This guy has gone from a minor role on The Office to strong supporting performance in Hot Tub Time Machine. Here is takes on a comedic romantic role and does it with a sure grace.
Kerry Washington is a stunning woman in a role that is put upon. As the girlfriend, she’s not given much to do and is more of a reaction for the two men in her life. It is her choice of her father’s love against her boyfriend’s love that drives this trite plot. Her job in Peeples is basically to look pretty. She proved she could act in Django; she just needs a better part.
The great David Alan Grier gives a one-note performance as the Judge. It is supposed to be one of these slow burn roles but David never finds a way to truly light the fuse. At times he just mugs to the camera. It is a painful bit of pantomime.
Writer director Tina Gordon Chism wastes her cast but frames them well. The look of Peeples is rich and lush, with beautiful New England scenery abounding every frame. She needed something funny to put inside her pretty pictures.
Peeples is the kind of film that will find an audience on DVD and will probably be one of those flicks that is played over and over on afternoon cable. It just isn’t worth making the investment of seeing on the big screen. In the end, it feels more like a sit-com than a motion picture.