Susan Granger’s review of “Peeples” (Lionsgate)
Pilfering characters and plot points from Ben Stiller’s “Meet the Parents,” this silly marital comedy pivots around Craig Robinson (Darryl on TV’s “The Office”) as Wade Walker, an aspiring New York music therapist who works as a kiddie entertainer, advising toddlers not to wet their pants: “Speak it; don’t leak it!”
Working-class Wade lives with and loves Gracie Peeples (Kerry Washington), a successful lawyer, who has never mentioned him to her distinguished, upper-class family, headed by demanding, disapproving Federal Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), whom Wade refers to as “the chocolate Kennedys.” Intending to propose marriage with a diamond ring in his pocket, bumbling Wade arrives, uninvited, at the annual family “Moby Dick Day” party at the Peeples’ palatial, waterfront Sag Harbor mansion, bringing a gift of wine, not knowing that Gracie’s kind-hearted mother Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson) is a recovering alcoholic and former disco queen known as Lady Divine. Chaos ensues, involving Grace’s kleptomaniacal teenage brother Simon (Tyler James Williams) and her CNN broadcaster sister Gloria (Kali Hawk), a closeted lesbian who’s brought along her partner, camerawoman (Kimrie Lewis-Davis). That’s enhanced by hapless Wade’s consumption of psychedelic mushrooms and the arrival of his prankster brother (Malcolm Barrett).
Written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism (“Drumline”) like an episodic sit-com with black cultural references, it meanders, desperately trying to be farcical but never attaining the proper momentum despite its amiable ensemble cast that includes Ana Gasteyer as the Mayor with Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles as Judge Peebles’ parents. Billed as “Tyler Perry Presents The Peeples,” its escalating slapstick shtick is certainly more effective than Tyler Perry’s sermonizing “Temptation.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Peeples” is formulaically funny, utterly familiar, fish-out-of-water 5 – with a few absurdly engaging comedic touches.