Peeples wastes all its potential for the sake of bad jokes and situational comedy.
I avoided this movie because initial reviews were mixed and I let them get to me. Sadly, they were right. Despite Kerry Washington, who proves she will do her best to work with whatever script she has faith in; Craig Robinson, who is growing on me; and seeing S. Epatha Merkerson, Tyler James Williams, David Alan Grier and Diahann Carroll, they really didn’t/couldn’t make the script work. They certainly gave it their best efforts, but in the end it felt cheesy and like an utter disappointment.
To begin, all of the Peeples family, maybe sans Merkerson’s character, all have quite the grandeur jobs which immediately make you think the film is going for a Cosby Show type family dynamic. The dad Virgil (played by David Alan Grier) is a federal judge; Daphne (played by S. Epatha Merkerson) is a one album singer who gave up her life for family; their daughter Grace (played by Kerry Washington) is a lawyer at the United Nations; her sister Gloria (played by Kali Hawk) is a journalist; and their little brother Simon (played by Tyler James Williams) is a high school kid with a penchant for math to the point he got a perfect score on the math portion of the SATs. Thing is, unlike The Cosby Show, the family doesn’t have a lot of chemistry with one another and their secrets, which drive the story, are glazed on top of them like some oily lotion. Meanwhile, Wade (played by Craig Robinson) is just this guy who does children shows about expressing themselves rather than pissing on themselves.
As the story goes, Wade is in love with Grace, but she has basically been keeping Wade a secret from her high achieving family. So, when she goes off for “Moby Dick Day,” he follows her and shows up at her father’s lake house home. From there, Wade learns no one knows anything about him, but everyone, except Virgil, ends up accepting him with open arms. The reason why Virgil doesn’t like Wade? Well, mostly patriarchy, but also because of a complex seemingly passed down from his father. So, the story is filled with family issues dealing with secrets and issues which could have been really compelling, but the film refuses to ever get serious.
But, despite the tone of this review, it did have some funny moments. Robinson delivers a few good lines and in total I laughed about 10 times; but considering this movie tries to be a straight comedy, that isn’t a good thing. Also, I did find myself enjoying the film in the beginning, it was just as time went on I felt like I walked into a film where there wasn’t clear direction on what was the goal, sort of speak.
What I mean by this is, the film has a few interesting topics which I felt deserved more effort in terms of writing. One character is dealing with coming out to their parents; another with trying to deal with identifying as Black, while trying to meet the ideals of a White society; and there are a slew of other secrets and issues which get glossed over for the sake of weak comedy. To me, it would have been nice for this to be a dramedy or something similar, but instead it gives us such potentially interesting characters who have decent actors playing them, and all that potential is pushed aside for bad jokes and situational comedy. Add onto the issues, this film really points out, despite her work on Scandal, that Kerry Washington does not have the type of versatility to handle comedy. She can have her moments, but in a straight up comedy film she seems like she tries, and tries so much that it becomes her trying to convince you of something she is not, one of which she is not funny.
Overall: Skip It
Films like these are the ones which make you feel like they are hoping a slew of famous names and the fact the cast is Black will at least get a Black audience to support it and make it profitable. Add on Tyler Perry’s stamp and it makes you almost want to throw blame at him, but with his films actually facing the characters’ issues, I can’t even throw him under the bus. Peeples is simply one of those films which seem good on paper. It has a great cast, could have a decent story, but somewhere down the line something went wrong and with Washington being on Scandal and Robinson having This is The End, I guess they were hoping to cash in on their names and get themselves a hit. Instead, all that was made was another disappointing feature which fuels the reason not many casts have this many African-Americans working in them at one time.