I’m not as opposed to movies ripping off other movies as you might think. In fact, you could make the argument that pretty much every movie that comes along is in some way cribbing from something that has gone before it.
Granted some rip-offs are a little more blatant than others, but if you can put your own spin on the subject matter and find something interesting to say, I say rip away.
That’s why I’m not going to take the easy way out and deride “Peeples” for being a cheap facsimile of “Meet the Parents,” a movie with territory so thoroughly mined it has ripped itself off twice.
The much larger problem with “Peeples” is that it is a mess of a comedy that struggles to find any consistent tone, characters or laughs.
The cast is plenty game with Craig Robinson playing our hapless hero, Wade, a man ready to pop the question to his out-of-his-league girlfriend Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington).
Wade must first meet Grace’s wealthy and uptight family led by a domineering father and federal judge Virgil (David Alan Greer).
When Wade shows up unexpectedly at a family gathering in the Hamptons, we are subjected to the standard litany of wacky misunderstandings swiped from decades of sitcoms, along with the slow, steady reveal that the Peeples clan isn’t as perfect as they appear.
Matriarch Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson) quietly regrets abandoning her music career along with carrying the baggage of a recovering alcoholic.
Sister Gloria is in closeted denial, refusing to acknowledge the nature of her relationship with her “friend” Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis), and brother Simon (Tyler James Williams) has a whole grab bag of problems, not the least of which is a wicked case of kleptomania.
And for no reason at all Wade’s brother, Chris (Malcolm Barrett, better known as a poor man’s Dave Chappelle), also shows up to try to inject any kind of spark into this movie.
Among the many problems that plague “Peeples” one of the biggest is the inexperience of writer/director Tina Gordon Chism. She has written two other moderately successful screenplays (“Drumline” and “ATL”), but “Peeples” marks her first endeavor behind the camera.
This movie has no flow or rhythm, and Chism seems to constantly be searching for the right balance of heart and laughs while never really finding either.
The other main problem with “Peeples” is that Robinson and Greer are miscast in their roles.
Robinson is a really funny dude and a great supporting player, but he never really seems comfortable as Wade, the straight-laced everyman.
Greer is cast against type almost to a fault. The rowdy, comedic actor does a fine job as the overbearing Judge Peeples, but he is basically wasted in the part. Greer can bring maniacal energy to anything he does and to bottle him up “just because” only serves to make your movie less funny.
“Peeples” is a disjointed film and while it all looks and feels familiar, the poor quality distracts from everything else. It’s like a copy of a copy of a copy that only makes you wish you were looking at the original.
“Peeples” is rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug material, and language.