By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Peeples is peopled with acting talent that never gets a chance to shine.
It’s a forced and clumsily broad comedy in the Meet the Parents vein that somehow tries too hard and not hard enough simultaneously.
The result is an entertainment that demonstrates the law of diminishing returns by the second reel.
Craig Robinson, a member of “The Office” television ensemble in his first starring role on the movie screen, plays Wade Walker, a New York City children’s counselor.
Kerry Washington is Grace Peeples, his live-in lawyer girlfriend, who is attending an annual family reunion in Sag Harbor, NY over the weekend and very conspicuously not taking Wade with her.
At this close-knit, upper-crust African-American family gathering in the Hamptons will be her father, a stern federal judge played by David Alan Grier; her tolerant mother, Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson); her sister, Gloria (Kali Hawk); her brother, Simon (Tyler James Williams); and her grandparents (Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles).
Wade has decided to produce a ring and pop the “Will you marry me?”question to Grace by popping in uninvited at her parents’ house over the weekend and announcing their engagement in front of her family.
But Grace has not as yet even told them that she has a boyfriend: she fears that her ambitious, social-climbing, high-achieving family would never accept a guy who works as a part-time music therapist for grade-school kids having urination problems. Yep, he’s what you might call a “pee-pulls” specialist.
However, as the weekend proceeds, Grace discovers that she’s far from the only member of the family harboring a secret.
Technical production values don’t exactly impress, but the biggest failing of screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline, ATL), who makes her directorial debut working from her own screenplay, is the obvious squandering of performing talent. The ensemble is uniformly weak and the lack of a knowing directorial hand is evident.
Oh, Robinson (a standup comedian and the film’s chief asset and most pleasant surprise) acquits himself decently enough in the uphill battle of a lead as a patient and good-natured guy, a straight shooter with real feelings for Grace, but the actor’s comfort level seems to be in spite of the script rather than because of it.
And neither the naturally charming Washington nor the naturally funny Grier gets to play to their strengths: both are mired in one-note roles that restrain rather than release them.
Co-producer Tyler Perry has attached his name to the film and given Chism the chance to shepherd her own movie vision to the big screen. The results are a distance from catastrophic, but an even greater distance from rewarding.
Consequently, what we end up with is a weak script sorely lacking in recognizable real-life human behavior, weakly executed at that, and a severely underemployed ensemble cast.
So we’ll propose 2 stars out of 4. Moviegoers opting for the Peeples choice will have to be both forgiving and easily amused.