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Review: 'Peeples' Is Essentially A Predictable Sitcom, But The Cast Makes It An Amusing One

Reviews
by Dan Simolke
May 10, 2013 10:22 AM
9 Comments
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Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson in 'Peeples'

Is this Craig Robinson’s first step toward becoming the black Kevin James, at least in terms of leading “play-it-safe” mainstream comedies? It could be, but the other career choices he’s made lead me to believe his destination will prove decidedly more interesting. Being a part of the Apatow crew has given him a few unique comedic roles (he’s one of the better aspects of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s fitfully hilarious, but uneven, “This Is the End,” which opens June 13th and happens to contain one of the most unexpected cameos of all-time) and he’s consistently one of the most relatable characters on “The Office.” He brings his nice guy chops to “Peeples,” and while the results are often humorous, the movie itself is highly generic and might as well be a remake of “Meet the Parents.”

Robinson plays Wade Walker, a guy who teaches young children how to express themselves by playing goofy songs about how to avoid wetting one’s pants, etc. He’s dating the, presumably, slightly out of his league, Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington), and has plans to propose. Of course, she doesn’t know this, and making the situation even more precarious is the fact that Wade hasn’t met her family yet (dubbed the “chocolate Kennedys” here). When she goes to visit them one weekend he decides to show up and make a good impression, theoretically topping things off by popping the question.

Potential spoiler: things don’t go as planned!

What “Peeples” gets right is its casting. Not even just the casting itself, but the room the actors get to be goofy. There’s a scene where Robinson gets mad after running into two of Washington’s old boyfriends (who are also older men) and when he brings it up with her she addresses it, and then casually gets on her bike to catch up with the rest of the family. But then the camera just stays on Robinson. He’s still mad about it and he just moves around in an odd manner, basically talking to himself before getting on his bike. I could barely hear what he was saying because the audience was laughing so much, but simply watching him move was hilarious. There are a couple moments like this where a scene goes on for what would normally be too long, but it usually works because of the actor’s enthusiasm.

Back to the casting itself, David Alan Grier is the unreasonably stern, but secretly flawed, dad, Virgil. He’s good in the role, but the character is mostly one-note. S. Epatha Merkerson is spot-on at playing the one-time disco queen/recovering alcoholic mom, and Tyler James Williams (Chris from “Everybody Hates Chris”) has a dorky charm as the brother. The funniest turn from the supporting cast comes from Malcolm Barrett, playing Wade’s brother, who reminded me a bit of Dave Chappelle here. He’s perfect for the “absurd sidekick” role.

Writer-director, Tina Gordon Chism (making her directorial-debut), clearly knows how to structure a conventional screenplay (she also scripted “ATL” and Drumline”) but my, the plot points are predictable. Grace’s reporter sister, Gloria (played by Kali Hawk, who is honestly so gorgeous it’s almost distracting any time she’s onscreen) has been coming home with her camerawoman for years and no one in the nuclear family has taken a hint. Wade also says it’s not going to rain in one scene, and then… well I’d prefer not to tell. There are several things like this in the script, where the audience knows what’s coming long before it does, and it gets a bit tiresome. The movie also loses its rhythm in the third-act, where it reaches its calculable conclusion quickly and awkwardly.

Technically, the film is nothing to write home about. The production values are not high, and the camera work is about as standard “back-and-forth” as you can get, but ultimately these things don’t have a detrimental effect on the movie. Plus, when the legendary Melvin Van Peebles has a small role in a movie in 2013, you can forgive a few cinematic shortcomings.

“Peeples” is a reasonably fun, non-offensive matinee flick. It has just enough oddball aspects to keep it from being completely run of the mill, and the actors (and what I would imagine is Chism’s direction of those actors) deliver in unexpected ways. I hope Robinson’s stock as an actor continues to rise, and honestly, who doesn’t want that to happen? He has such an immediately likeable presence onscreen. Plus, his delivery of the line: “You used to not give a fuck about discretion!” in “Pineapple Express” is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. He deserves continued success for that alone. In fact, I even like to pretend he wrote it.

Grade: a solid C+

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9 Comments

  • Mark and Darla | May 9, 2013 10:08 PMReply

    Just about all idea for movies is use up. so the chance for an unpredictable movie is mute.

    Just the other day while watching an old black and white British movie. I predicted a scene before it happen.

    I knew when the character stop ambiguous by a car and walked away he was going to tamper with engine without the audience seeing the scene, sure enough when the car was driven by another character in the next scene the car began to act up.

  • Amanda | May 9, 2013 5:45 PMReply

    Wow that ugly man is supposed to be Kerry Washington's love interest, poor Kerry. It isn't believable that Craig Robinson a guy as fat and homely looking as that could get a woman like Kerry Washington's character. Besides, if this movie was really realistic, they would of gotten Kerry a white guy as her love interest she's not into black men.

  • Rocket | May 10, 2013 11:57 AM

    "Fat, homely looking" men pull women like Kerry Washington all the time. What is rare is the "fat, homely looking" woman pulling the good looking man.

  • kirk | May 9, 2013 8:34 PM

    "if this movie was really realistic, they would of gotten Kerry a white guy as her love interest she's not into black men."

    Damn it! Rashida, Kerry, there must be someone out there!

  • saadiyah | May 9, 2013 4:53 PMReply

    @CareyCarey - Hope you and your Mom have LOTS of laughs watching "Peeples."

  • CareyCarey | May 9, 2013 8:45 PM

    Thanks SAADIYAH, I'm sure we will. I know she's excited. After 87 years on this earth she recently lost her independence to a fall and subsequent stroke, so she's ready to get out and do a little laughing.

  • CareyCarey | May 9, 2013 1:45 PMReply

    " He brings his nice guy chops to "Peeples," and while the results are often humorous, the movie itself is highly generic and might as well be a remake of "Meet the Parents."

    Okay, I stopped right there because I didn't need to read anymore. I mean, if it's funny that's all I need to know. My momma and my lady don't care anything about DAN SIMOLKE'S opinion. I don't mean that in a bad way, but I WAS wondering who is this Dan Simokie guy... and what is he bringing to the table?

    Now damit, I don't know if that came out right, but this mother's day I'm taking my mother to see this movie. She needs constant care, only being able to move by bed or wheelchair, so we've arrainged for her transportation to the cinema. So needless to say, if I mention anything about some guy name Smokey, she's going to look at me like I've lost my mind.

    And as I've said before, I plan to see this movie with an open mind. More importantly, when my mother laughs I'm gonna laugh right along with her and maybe drop a tear, because she doesn't find may things to laugh about anymore. She has actually asked God to bring her home because, as she said "it's hard living like this".

  • BluTopaz | May 10, 2013 12:43 PM

    aw man Carey I'm sorry to hear that. Have an enjoyable and fun Mother's day.

  • that dude | May 9, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    This movie is an awful waste of a great cast. But it's so bad it's punishing.

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