TV actors often make big-screen features in their off time, the downside being that most of those features end up seeming like bland, TV-sized sitcoms anyway.
The TV-actor-rich “Peeples” is practically an advertisement for that hypothesis. Craig Robinson (“The Office”), David Alan Grier (“In Living Color”), Kerry Washington (“Scandal”), S. Epatha Merkerson (“Law & Order”) and Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”) star in this Tyler Perry-produced updating of Ben Stiller’s “Meet the Parents,” the difference being “Parents” was funny and “Peeples” is not.
Those who know “Meet the Parents” front to back will easily connect the dots: nebbishy dude accompanies new girlfriend to family reunion in a small town on Long Island. Uptight dad disapproves of nebbishy dude. Chaos ensues as dude tries his best to impress dad, chaos that goes on to include missing jewelry, ill-timed drug trips, the burning of a prized commodity and, of course, plenty of embarrassment.
There is some cleverness at work in the film – Robinson (in the Stiller role) refers to the Peeple family as “the Chocolate Kennedys,” Grier (in the De Niro role) has a terrific slow burn – but, mostly, the script is content in tossing-off as many cheap, easy gags as possible. I mean, do people still laugh when someone accidentally ingests hallucinogenic mushrooms and causes all manner of inappropriate commotion in the process? The audience I saw “Peeples” with sure didn’t.
As a veteran of “The Office,” Robinson is no stranger to comedies that mine yuks from uncomfortable situations, and, yes, he does get to demonstrate more range here than he does on TV. But broad farce is not really his strong suit – imagine Stiller as Daryl on “The Office.” Wouldn’t make sense, right? Well, that same cogitation applies to Robinson here.
Rest assured all of the people in “Peeples” are at the top of their game. But when they’re forced to endure the rotten material they’re given in movies like this one, you end up feeling as though their efforts are all for naught. I didn’t even mention the three – count ‘em, three – random musical interludes, one of which is thrown in merely as an excuse to slap an elaborate headdress on Robinson for added embarrassment. None of the interludes are funny, of course, but in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the movie, it’s not like we necessarily expected them to be, either.
★½ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for mild language and sex jokes. 95 minutes, 2013.
Director: Tina Gordon Chism. Starring: Craig Robinson, David Alan Grier.
Read all of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at AFistfulofPopcorn.com.