It’s more than likely Peeples has a script that was generated from ideas thought by a living being and then written with human hands. But, try convincing yourself of that as you watch Tina Gordon Chism’s comedy. It’s impossible.
The screenplay – written by Chism – is more of a systematic sitcom template structured like an edition of Mad Libs. Audiences can see each set-up, misunderstanding, and the results the mishaps create from miles away.
Wade (played by The Office’s Craig Robinson) is eager to propose to his girlfriend Grace Peeples (played by Kerry Washington). Their relationship has been sailing smoothly, but there’s one problem. He still hasn’t met her parents!
She’s hesitant because her straight laced father Virgil (played by David Alan Grier) is a tough cookie. There’s always shyness and tiptoeing when a romantic interest meets a significant others parents, but there’s another hiccup. Virgil is also an East Coast judge, which makes confrontations with him very serious and intimidating!
Wade tries to act kindly towards the Peeples and treat each family member with respect. But, Virgil doesn’t like the cut of Wade’s jib! Peeples is the ongoing struggle involving a ne’er-do-well man fighting for the acceptance of his girlfriend’s father. It’d be harmless fluff if Chism didn’t exclaim every overused formula and cliche – as I’ve done above.
The Mad Libs-esque blanks are there for Chism to fill in typical motivations or strained comedy. Sometimes the actions are contrived and tiresome, while others are befuddling and lame brained. Like Wade’s job occupation for instance. Wade educates children through song about how they should talk things out instead of publicly urinating. And you can’t forget about the climactic head-to-head that takes place at an annual Moby Dick appreciation ceremony. I’ll let you decide what category those nuggets of gold fit on the Venn Diagram of hilarity in Peeples.
I wouldn’t say there’s convincing dialogue in Peeples. It’s rather actors shouting their character’s motivations out loud. When Wade’s brother Chris (played by Malcolm Barrett) is egging him on to show up unexpectedly to Grace’s family reunion, the film has Robinson monologuing about what he will do and how it will affect the situation. It’s supposed to make audiences say “oh no” as we watch trouble unfold, but it makes us groan “oh brother” because of how everything has been dumbed down.
I have a feeling Chism has used each actor to the degree she has wanted to, but her direction comes across as someone who doesn’t realize how talented her cast is. Robinson, who I commend for wanting to branch out to more prominent comedic roles, flounders with the straight man routine. He’s proven before he can deliver lines with a deadpan approach, but the film doesn’t allow Robinson to work his tongue-in-cheek talent. When he’s given more absurd set-ups, he unfortunately overplays the ridiculousness in the moronic jokes.
David Alan Grier is usually an incredible, gifted performer. When he’s given proper leeway, he’s able to improvise like a champ. It’s so saddening to see his capabilities pigeonholed to cartoonish disapproving and sneering. And, as we see Melvin Van Peebles in a muggy throwaway role as Grier’s father, it’s an immediate giveaway that Chism REALLY doesn’t know who she’s working with.
Now, I’m coming down hard on Tina Gordon Chism, and maybe a lot of this is coming across as too vicious. But this is her movie and she has to take responsibility for how terrible the end product is. But, this is also her first stab at filmmaking. So, I really tried to take each flaw with a grain of salt.
However, Tyler Perry is listed as a producer. The role of a producer is to – at the very least – lend a guiding hand. There is no mentorship here and Perry – along with the other producers – has let Chism down.
Perry’s movies may not be a picture perfect example to successful filmmaking, but to quote Drake’s hit song, “he started from the bottom, now he’s here.” He knows how to handle this type of fare by now, and he knows how to make an onscreen family bond decently effective and amusing.
Because his name is attached to this atom bomb of a comedy, I feel very comfortable with stating that Peeples is one of the worst Tyler Perry productions we’ve seen yet. It also happens to be one of the worst movies of the year.