PLOT: Eager to meet his girlfriend Grace's (Kerry Washington) family, Wade (Craig Robinson) shows up uninvited at a family retreat. He's shocked to discover that not only has Grace's family never heard of him, but that her superior court judge father- Virgil (David Alan Grier) is an imposing patriarch with nothing but contempt for any man that he feels is usurping his role as the head of the family.
REVIEW: Does this plot seem kinda familiar? It should, because PEEPLES is pretty much MEET THE PARENTS all over again, only watered-down for the family values Tyler Perry crowd, with Craig Robinson making for a much less neurotic hero that Ben Stiller, and David Alan Grier being a far less imposing patriarch than Robert De Niro. While the original MEET THE PARENTS presented a near-cataclysmic series of events for poor Stiller to navigate, the worst thing to happen here is Robinson accidentally gets high on some schrooms, and ruins Moby Dick Day (the family hometown has a thing for Melville).
Associating PEEPLES with the Tyler Perry movies probably isn't all that fair to writer-director Tina Gordon Green, as Perry likely had little to do with this other than lending it his name and marketing muscle. PEEPLES isn't quite as pandering or sophomoric as the Madea movies, nor is it nearly as bad. PEEPLES actually isn't a terrible movie, just a very bland one.
This is really too bad as PEEPLES is full of funny and talented people, it's just that they don't have a heck of a lot to work with. Craig Robinson is poised to break out as a major star, and having seen the guy perform live at Just for Laughs in Montreal, you can take my word for it that he can be just as funny on his own as his is when surrounded by a big ensemble, like on THE OFFICE or the upcoming THIS IS THE END. It's just that the cuddly, PG-13 type-humor doesn't really give him a chance to do much, either than mug for the camera (even though I personally find him funnier playing it ultra low-key, as he does in his stand-up, and on THE OFFICE). His only marginally clever bit is early on, when we see Wade at his day-job as a kiddie-councilor, singing a song about wetting the bed called “Say it, Don't Spray it” (Green seemed to notice this two, as the song gets two reprises).
The radiant Kerry Washington is very likable as Wade's warm, supportive girlfriend, but this kind of two-dimensional part feels like a step-back for her after DJANGO UNCHAINED and SCANDAL, with this being more in-line with her “wife parts” in movies like A THOUSAND WORDS. The equally stunning Kali Hawk plays her Peeples sibling, the closeted Gloria, who's at the family retreat with her lover Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis), while EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS' Tyler James Williams (all grown-up) plays her nerdy brother/ wanna-be tough guy. Like the others, both Hawk and Williams are fine, but have had much better showcases elsewhere (Hawk was one of the few funny things about COUPLES RETREAT, while EVERYBODY LOVES CHRIS was an underrated show).
The only two who really get a chance to shine in PEEPLES are the Peeples' parents, played by David Alan Grier and S. Epatha Merkerson. Merkerson in particular does a lot with her part, striking a good balance between being warm and funny, and the bits about her being an ex-disco diva are probably the funniest parts in the film. It's also nice to see Grier back on the big screen, but again, I wish he had been given more of a chance to be outrageous, as anyone who's seen any of his stuff on IN LIVING COLOR knows that he can be one hell of a funny guy when given the chance. Here, he's unfortunately reigned in, except for one marginally funny bit in a sweat-lodge.
Still, PEEPLES isn't awful, and it's certainly the best thing I've ever seen associated with Tyler Perry (outside PRECIOUS), and refreshingly free of the oddly conservative bent that I've noticed in a lot of his other movies. It's just that PEEPLES- while it was probably always going to come off as a MEET THE PARENTS knockoff- could have been a lot funnier, especially given the talent involved. It's not offensively bad, but it is mediocre, and the kind of movie that's probably doomed to be an obscure part of Robinson's filmography.
|Extra Tidbit:||It's almost worth the price of admission just to see Kerry Washington being spanked in her sexy schoolgirl outfit. Mmm-hmm.|