- Movie Rating -

Peeples (2014)

| May 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Ten seconds into Peeples, I realized that I had boarded a sinking ship. In the opening scene, Craig Robinson is revealed to be a guy who sings to kids at the library.  Fine, but the song he’s singing is called “Speak It! – Don’t Leak It!” which, if I understood correctly, is a song that encourages the kids to express their emotions rather than urinating on things. Why? Why sing that song? What is the message? Why would anyone allow him to sing that song? I know I’m being over-analytical but it gets the movie started on the wrong foot. What’s worse is that creative team behind Peeples think that this song is so funny that it provides the movie’s payoff.

Peeples is unbearable; a movie hammered together out of spare parts from better comedies and laid out on a foundation borrowed from failed sitcoms. It has the kind of dialogue that sounds weird without a laugh track and a plot that ebbs toward Meet the Parents but doesn’t even bother to come up with any jokes or any genuine feeling for any of the characters. It’s a shooting gallery, a joke is set up and knocked down. There is no attempt to pull the comedy from human nature.

Robinson plays Wade Walker a nice guy from New York with designs on being a child therapist. For some time he’s been dating Grace (Kerry Washington), and wants so badly to propose marriage that he walks around with the ring in his pocket 24/7. There’s just one little hitch: Grace hasn’t told her family that she’s dating him. Why? Simple. The plot needs her to keep Wade a secret so all kinds of shenanigans can take place over the course of a weekend. She’s headed to Sag Harbor for a Moby Dick celebration (you can guess where that idea is going) but wants him to stay behind.

Not to be outdone, Wade crashes the proceedings and hi-jinks ensue. Grace’s family is a bizarre mix, and not in the good way. Her mother Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson) is a former disco diva who overcomes her alcoholism by smoking pot. Her sister (Kali Hawk) is a CNN anchor and closeted lesbian who travels around with her camerawoman/partner Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis) but hasn’t given the news to the family even though Meg spouts poetry at the dinner table about being intimate with her. Her brother Simon (Tyler James Williams) is a math genius and kleptomaniac with designs on being a thug. Then there’s Virgil (David Alan Grier), the family patriarch, a federal judge who is a perfectionist and a lion when it comes to protecting the family – even in places where it isn’t needed. He’s a bitter old snort who regards Wade like a cockroach.

I don’t know exactly how to describe the next 90 minutes. It’s the kind of disjointed, unfunny series of set-up jokes that would kill a sitcom in the pilot. The jokes are designed to make Wade look like a jerk while we wait for all of the family’s secrets to come spilling out of the closet. What is troubling is that the movie has no narrative flow. It feels like just a series of set-ups and put-downs that seem to have been written by different people on different days and then just hammered into the script.

There are plot points here that are brought up and have nothing to do with anything. For example, Wade hears that Virgil is going to play at a local jazz club. He goes to the club and finds that Virgil isn’t there. He looks for him and finds him headed for a nude beach. The joke, of course, is that Wade is devastated to have seen Virgil’s testicles. But the scene goes nowhere. He returns to the house, doesn’t tell Grace about it and then it’s not brought up again until a vague explanation at the end. There’s no comedic payoff and the scene is just left laying there. There are at least ten scenes like this, but no attempt to really deal with anything. The movie shoves the characters through a series of comic sketches but the screenwriters seem too timid or too lazy to deal with these people as people. What’s worse is that there is a genuine bad feeling from this cast. No one seems to want to be here. The characters are written as petty and hostile and indifferent to one another. This movie is an unpleasant experience.

So, is the movie funny? No. I smiled once, at a line from Robinson about Uncle Ben and Bojangles. Other than that, I mostly regarded this film with blistering indifference. Doing research before the movie, I wasn’t surprised to find that Peeples is a Tyler Perry production whom I regard as this century’s P.T. Barnum, a talentless charlatan who has turned a lack of talent into a billion dollar enterprise. People flock to his movies presumably to have a good time but what Perry gives them is the same kind of garbage that the audience would turn off if they caught it on television. Thus far, I’ve seen three films that he’s been involved with – Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club, Tyler Perry’s Temptation and now Peeples (I don’t count Star Trek) – and I find them painfully unwatchable. All three seem to have been written and produced with the kind of grace and ingenuity of that urination song. This movie is aggressively bad.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy