Monday, December 16, 2013


Directed by Tina Gordon Chism.
2013. Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.
David Alan Grier
S. Epatha Merkerson
Kali Hawk
Tyler James Williams
Kimrie Lewis-Davis
Diahann Carroll
Ana Gasteyer

Wade Walker (Robinson) is head-over-heels in love with his live-in girlfriend Grace Peeples (Washington). He wants to propose to her this weekend, but she is off to spend it with her family which he’s never met. For some reason, she is adamantly against introducing him to them. So off she goes. Undeterred, Wade shows up uninvited to her parents summer house. When he arrives, he not only discovers that they have never even heard of him, but also that family patriarch Virgil (Grier) has taken it as his mission in life to be as overbearing as humanly possible. Wade trying to win the old man’s blessing so he can pop the question and also stumbling into every family secret ensues.

It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. As the adage pertains to the art of cinema, it appears every story that could possible be told has been. Peeples is a movie in support of that theory. Director Tina Gordon Chism’s movie, “presented by” Tyler Perry, blazes no new trails whatsoever. Instead, it travels the most familiar roads, the ones with the landmarks we are all too familiar with. I’ve already mentioned how stern Virgil is which is par for the course of these types of movies. It is no shock at all that Wade is well-intentioned, but can’t do anything right around Virgil. Likewise for the fact that mom Daphne (Merkerson) is kind-hearted, but wouldn’t dare try to outrank her man. Yes, Grace’s brother Simon (Williams) is an eccentric teen whose dying wish to be cool so he can get laid. And yes, her sister Gloria (Hawk) is not only secretly gay, but it’s obvious to everyone except dad. Finally, bits and pieces of Grace’s questionable past keep bubbling to the surface. Yawn.

Since the entire movie is a cliché, why not use one to move this review forward? The devil is in the details. What I mean is since everything feels pre-ordained to work out just fine right from the first scene, whether Peeples is successful in your eyes will hinge on two things. The first is its jokes. The second is the actors carrying out of them. There are several genuinely funny moments and a couple more that make us chuckle. The cast is fairly solid. David Alan Grier gives us his stiffest upper lip. The old In Living Color vet plays it surprisingly straight. Craig Robinson also tones down his usual shtick enough to work in a more watered down climate than we are used to seeing him. This movie has moments of raunch and enough choice words to ensure it’s PG-13 rating. Still, this is far more family friendly than his usual far. In any event, neither guy is bad, but neither is exactly blowing our doors off. Yup, another cliché.

The standout here is S. Epatha Merkerson as the perpetually drunken mom. She brings a sense of whimsy that wisely contrasts her rigid husband and all the tension surrounding him. It’s a bit sad the movie makes light of her being in Alcoholics Anonymous yet so far off the wagon as to not even be able to see it. Still, she is easily the most fun person here. As for the biggest name in the cast, and the apple of daddy’s eye, Kerry Washington, star of my wife’s favorite TV show, Scandal, feels curiously underused here. She certainly has plenty of screen time and a few scenes devoted to her dramatic flourishes. However, she is most often part of the backdrop for the zaniness between her boyfriend and/or her family.

As a whole, the cast does nothing to subtract from the film. As I’ve said, they are solid. Enough of the jokes work to keep things moving at a nice clip. Believe it or not, this pace is also helped by the derivative nature of Peeples. If you’ve seen one or two rom-coms you probably have a checklist of things you know are going to happen. As the movie plays you can simply start placing your mark in each as they occur. You’ll likely find that it gets to the end rather quickly. In summation, it is a movie you’ve seen before, only with different faces. Therefore, this is not something you need to track down and watch immediately. That said it is not the worst way to spend an hour and a half.

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