Peeples is a rare Tyler Perry treat. It’s a film that the successful director worked on but didn’t hold back from critics in advance of its release date.
Many of the movies that Perry has been heavily involved in are not shown to critics, so the fact that this one was before its release was a good but ultimately empty sign that audiences were in for something more satisfying than Perry’s typical fare. Perry only served as a producer–not a director–here but the end product still seems vaguely familiar. Peeples is a messy, unkempt attempt at comedy that too often relies on cheap humor to get its points across.
In this “comedy” (which begins and ends with a song about urine), Craig Robinson of The Office fame stars as Wade, a children’s entertainer in a long-term relationship with Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington). The couple lives together, and he is preparing to propose to her. The only problem: Grace’s family doesn’t know that Wade exists.
When Grace leaves to spend a fun weekend with her family, Wade–against his better angels–opts to follow her (unbenownst to her, of course). He finds that her family isn’t as pristine and proper as he predicted they would be. Grace’s father (David Alan Greir) is a stern judge who, when no one is looking, enjoys partying on the beach in the nude with the city mayor (yes, that’s actually what he does).
Meanwhile, her mother (S. Epatha Merkerson) is a recovering–but easily tempted–alcoholic while her brother (Tyler James Williams) is a lying thief and Grace’s sister is a lesbian, who has hidden her sexual preferences from her family.
Of course, Wade is the stereotypical do-gooder who easily sees through the family’s façade and recognizes how imperfect they really are.
As the plot proceeds, we see their flaws clearly but such imperfections pale in comparion to the problems in the film itself. Tina Gordon Chism, who wrote and directed, does this clichéd plot a disservice by cutting it down and making it as disgusting and implausible as possible. A running joke, for instance, is that Wade doesn’t know anything about his fiancé, including the fact that she had breast implants to compete with the women in her family. Another running joke is the idea that Grace’s sister is constantly accompanied by her partner but no one realizes that the two are in love.
These gags are supposed to move the story forward but instead reveal how superficial and lackluster this picture actually is. Anyone who has ever seen a disapproving father onscreen or a perfect-looking family who hide their secrets from each other has seen all that is offered here. Grier has had a promising comedic career but this role leaves him little to do, aside from the naked dancing and an obnoxious scene where he spends his time sweating as part of a local competition.
Peeples ultimately tells a story that has been told dozens of times before about a young man trying to please his girlfriend’s upper-crust father while getting to know her family. The problem here is that this story doesn’t try to elevate the proceedings one bit. Instead, it takes solace in its trite plot and lowers itself with potty humor, urine jokes and inane plot twists.
Robinson and his fellow thespians deserved better than this, and so do audiences.