Lionsgate // 2013 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 25th, 2013
Dad wants the boyfriend out of the picture.
"Get his balls out of your head!"
Wade Walker (Craig Robinson, The Office) and Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington, Django Unchained) have been dating for over a year, and Wade is convinced that Grace is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. He's eager to meet her family before he pops the question, but she keeps finding excuses to prevent that from happening. Finally, Wade decides to be proactive and crashes a Peeples family gathering in The Hamptons. Soon, he finds himself in heated conflict with Grace's wealthy, overbearing father Virgil (David Alan Grier, In Living Color). Will Wade find a way to make peace with his potential in-laws, or will the family bickering destroy his relationship with Grace?
Tyler Perry's name was featured prominently in the marketing for Peeples (in fact, my local cinema dubbed it "Tyler Perry Presents Peeples" on the marquee), but those wary of the ubiquitous writer/director/producer/actor's presence should be aware that Peeples is a considerably more focused and consistent effort than most of Mr. Perry's work. Its fusion of comedy and drama is more comfortable, the characters are permitted to have some shades of gray and the messages feel natural rather than forced. That being said, the fact that the film (which is the directorial debut of ATL and Drumline screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism) is an improvement on Perry's work doesn't mean that it's essential viewing.
Peeples is a good-hearted movie that achieves its basic goals, but whether or not you like it will depend on if you're okay with the film's broadly-drawn comic scenarios and complete predictability. Let's take a look at the players.
Wade Walker: A good guy who makes a living by writing urine-themed songs for
children ("Speak It, Don't Leak It!" is his latest jam). Naturally,
this fact leads to an awkward scene in which he is asked to perform one of his
tunes for the Peeples.
His secret: He wants to propose, but can't ever find an opportunity to do so.
Grace Peeples: A good-natured woman with a lot of tension beneath the
surface. She loves Wade, but has been extraordinarily nervous about introducing
him to her family. She nervously attempts to keep everyone happy while trying to
figure out what to do.
Her secret: She has a wild sexual past and breast implants.
Virgil Peeples: The stern patriarch of the Peeples clan. He's a judge, which
is the film's way of noting that he's a pretty judgmental character. He thinks
Wade is a fool and wants to get rid of him as quickly as possible.
His secret: He hangs out at a nudist beach on a weekly basis as a way of relieving stress.
Daphne Peeples (S. Epatha Merkerson, Law and Order): The kind-hearted
matriarch who just wants everyone to get along. She used to be a soul singer,
but gave up that life decades ago.
Her secret: She's addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Simon Peeples (Tyler James Williams, Everybody Hates Chris): A brash
teenager who yearns to be cool. He has a buried rebellious streak that springs
to life once Wade enters his life.
His secret: He's a kleptomaniac.
Gloria Peeples (Kali Hawk, Bridesmaids): She's a high-profile
journalist who generally stays out of most family conflicts. She's a bit
resentful towards her father because she feels he's dismissive of her work.
Her secret: She's gay -- and she's in a relationship with her childhood best friend.
The first half of the film presents us with all of these characters and their assorted secrets, leading to a fairly rambunctious second half in which everyone discovers everyone else's secrets in as colorful a manner as possible. There's never a genuinely surprising development in the film, as each character arc is rather obviously foreshadowed from the beginning. The film is wacky, but never particularly clever in the way it stages its big comic moments (a scene in which a dog starts humping Wade, a moment of sexual bondage play that happens to be overseen by the wrong people at the wrong time, a drug-fueled re-enactment of the climax from Moby Dick -- trust me, all of this is much more banal than it sounds).
Still, it's nice. Is that enough? Not really, but it's worth noting, anyway. Not enough comedies are sweet and sincere, so it's a pleasant surprise when one comes along that seems to have a good deal of affection for its characters. The films based on Chism's earlier screenplays also had an appealing sweetness, but both ATL and Drumline were more effective movies. One gets the sense that Chism's real interest is in the relationship drama beneath the surface. There are a few stray moments that prove surprisingly thoughtful and moving, but these are quickly followed by strained slapstick. The movies goes through the motions of being a goofy comedy, but it lacks the conviction or innovation to really work in this area.
Peeples (Blu-ray) has received a perfectly acceptable 1080p/2.35:1 transfer. The film's New England location is rather attractive, and Chism manages to make the whole thing feel just a bit more visually involving than the average comedy. Detail is solid throughout, depth is impressive and darker scenes benefit from strong shading. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio score doesn't provide anything to write home about, but it's consistently well-balanced and fairly robust during the musical numbers. Supplements include a commentary with Chism, producer Stephanie Allain and all of the primary cast members, a making-of featurette, a gag reel and a digital copy.
Peeples is a well-meaning film, but it fails to be an interesting one. Too bad.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Gag Reel
* Digital Copy
* Official Site
* Facebook Page