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After writing successful screenplays for ATL and Drumline, Tina Gordon Chism makes her directorial debut with a variation of Meets the Parents with very different results in the comedy, Peeples.
The first film produced by Tyler Perry’s 34th Street imprint not directed by the mogul himself, the movie centers on a struggling blue-collar artist, Wade (Craig Robinson) in a long-term relationship with a successful uptown-attorney, Grace (Kerry Washington) who despite their union has not introduced him to her family. While she dismisses his objections as just spending time with her brood, she secretly fears that her dominating and opinionated father, Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier) would not approve of her life choice.
Of course Grace has no clue that Wade wants to ask her hand in marriage and takes the opportunity to crash their Sag Harbor residence to ask her father’s permission and that’s where all hell breaks loose in this comedy. Gordon Chism, who is so adept at crafting wonderful dramatic moments in her earlier work, seems out of her depth her trying to navigate plausible situations despite their utter predictability.
In this film, Grace is not upset when her love surprises her forcing her hand to acknowledge their relationship but fails to stand up to Judge Peeples to defend their relationship. Instead of accepting Grace’s friend and welcoming him into their home, he looks down on him, judging him and setting up several competitive situations that embarass him and expose the true dysfunction in the Peeples’ household.
Where Jay Roach was successful with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, Gordon Chism is not as successful with her pairing. The lion’s share of the jokes fall flat, Robinson who is a great character actor is simply over his head with so much extended lead time and truth be told, it’s simply not only very interesting. That also goes for several other sub-plots that prove equally useless including the parent’s inability to see that their other daughter, Gloria (Kali Hawk) is secretly in a lesbian relationship with her “friend,” Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis), younger brother, Simon (Tyler James Williams) is an in-secure poser and kleptomaniac, Judge Peeples’ late-night deception and his wife, Daphne’s (S. Epatha Merkerson) alcoholism.
Much like Chris Rock in CB4, Down to Earth and Head of State, Robinson is great in small doses but as a leading man, he cinematically overstays his welcome. He and co-star Kerry Washington have zero chemistry in there is no indication given on what she sees in Wade. Currently starring as strong media fixer, Olivia Pope in Scandal, this feels like a role that would have been appropriate for her several years earlier and she seems out of place playing such a vacuous love interest. While both Grier, Merkerson and Williams extend plenty of energy in their thankless roles, truthfully their characters aren’t that interesting either nor given much to do.
Plenty of bad jokes, miscast actors and poor direction lead to the year’s most unpleasant experience we’ve had at the movies this year. Who would have thought that the worst film to come out of Tyler Perry’s studio would NOT be a film from Perry. One wonders that if the film had a different director could these cinematic lemons have been turned into lemonade. Gordon Chism has proved that she can write a winning screenplay but her attempt to chronicle these “peeples” woefully misses the mark – which is a shame because we hoped this beautiful soul would make a film that would match and this is NOT it!!!