[Screen It]

"PEEPLES"
(2013) (Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A good-hearted, but unaccomplished man meets his girlfriend's very accomplished parents and ends up running afoul of the dad.
PLOT:
Wade (CRAIG ROBINSON) is a good-hearted, but so far unaccomplished man who aspires to get his doctorate in child psychology. For now, though, he is a children's educator at local libraries and schools. He is dating Grace Peeples (KERRY WASHINGTON), a lawyer who has still not told her demanding, upper-class father, Virgil (DAVID ALAN GRIER), and former pop star mother, Daphne (S. EPATHA MERKERSON), that they are living together or even dating.

Wade decides to surprise Daphne on a family vacation weekend in small-town Connecticut, and Grace is forced to acknowledge their relationship. Virgil takes an immediate dislike to his daughter's boyfriend and calls him just a "phase" she is going through. Wade, meanwhile, gets to meet Grace's closet-lesbian sister, Gloria (KALI HAWK); her not-so-secret lesbian friend, Meg (KIMRIE LEWIS-DAVIS); and Grace's surly little brother, Simon (TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS), who idolizes the "gangsta" lifestyle and has a habit of stealing.

Wade gets even more family than he bargained for when his fun-seeking little brother, Chris (MALCOLM BARRETT), decides to surprise him and offer moral support. He also meets Grace's inquisitive grandpa (MELVIN VAN PEEBLES) and grandma (DIAHANN CARROLL). He looks for the right time to ask for Grace's hand in marriage. But comical complications continue to arise.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
With regards to the new comedy, "Peeples," I am going to write something that may sound like a backhanded compliment. But I assure you, it is genuine praise. "Peeples" is a likable movie. And I mean that in the best possible way! We don't get enough likable movies. We get movies that try and be all about exclamation points. Hilarious! Intense! Action-packed! Scary! But you never see an ad in the paper or a commercial on TV with the critic's quote: "Likable!"

So, if the studio advertising honchos are out there reading this and they are looking for critics' quotes to put in their advertising this weekend, you have my full permission to use: "Peeples is the most likable movie to come out this year" - Ted Durgin, ScreenIt.com. And I will stand by that quote just as I stand by this here review. I liked this movie. The characters in it were so likable. And I have liked thinking about the movie ever since.

I think in circumstances such as this when you do like a movie, the reviewer shouldn't do it a disservice by over-hyping it even though I know it will be a tough sell at the box office with "Iron Man 3" and "The Great Gatsby" dominating screens. "Peeples" is not hilarious or laugh-packed. You won't need a hankie afterwards from all the crying you will do. And you won't need to take an Advil because of the eye-popping 3-D special effects or hulked-up soundtrack. It's just a nice, easy-going big-screen sitcom. And, yes, as you have probably already guessed from the early marketing, it is indeed an African-American take on "Meet the Parents."

Craig Robinson of "The Office" stars as Wade, a musician who has found his niche entertaining children with educational songs about potty-training. But he dreams of earning a Doctorate's degree in Child Psychology. He dates and lives with Grace (Kerry Washington), a New York lawyer who has yet to tell her dad (David Alan Grier) and mom (S. Epatha Merkerson) about their relationship.

Ready to ask for her hand in marriage, Wade decides to butt into a family vacation weekend in Connecticut and meet her parents and siblings. Stiller-esque hijinks ensue. Bits involving Wade unknowingly drinking a mushroom-laced beverage to Wade following her dad into town and finding out he is a secret nudist factor into the yuks here. Lending some funny support is newcomer Malcolm Barrett, who plays Wade's younger brother who comes to the family home for the weekend to lend support and tries to pass himself off as a doctor. He is, sort of -- he's a doll doctor in one of those American Girl Doll-like stores. Barrett has the best comic timing in the film.

The film is at its best when the characters are just sitting around a table relating to one another. Writer-director Tina Gordon Chism is definitely shooting for a Nancy Meyers-like vibe here and comes fairly close. The one big problem in the film is Grier as the domineering dad. He's fine and very (here's that word again) likable in the role. But the part called for a much stronger and formidable presence. Twenty or thirty years ago, James Earl Jones or John Amos would have ruled in this role. The part needed a Samuel L. Jackson or a Delroy Lindo or a Ving Rhames. "Meet the Parents" worked so well because it was Robert De Niro in the scary dad role and not Robert Redford.

Other than that, "Peeples" is fine, fun entertainment. I give it a 5.5 out of 10, and the studio can quote me on that, too. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed May 7, 2013 / Posted May 10, 2013


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