‘Peeples’ predictable but entertaining, thanks to good cast
BY BILL ZWECKER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST May 9, 2013 10:22AM
From left to right: Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington), Simon Peeples (Tyler Williams), Gloria Peeples (Kali Hawk) and Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis) in PEEPLES. Photo credit: Nicole Rivelli
Wade Craig Robinson
Grace Kerry Washington
Virgil David Alan Grier
Daphne S. Epatha Merkerson
Nana Diahann Carroll
Grandpa Melvin Van Peebles
Gloria Kali Hawk
Lionsgate presents a film written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated
PG-13 (for sexual content, drug material and language). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:03AM
No matter one’s background, race, ethnicity or religion, people often face that age-old dilemma: meeting the prospective in-laws.
It’s not just the meeting that is key; it goes far beyond that. The universal fear: Will I pass muster?
For many brides and grooms — or even new boyfriends and girlfriends — the question becomes: Is he (or she) good enough for my son (or daughter)?
As so many of us have learned in our own lives, that answer frequently is: “Of course not!”
While we all know many parents who are thrilled to see their children find soul mates, I’ll bet that if you scratch the surface of even those folks, you’ll still detect at least a touch of skepticism.
That’s the underlying premise of “Peeples,” the feature film debut of director Tina Gordon Chism, a protégé of Tyler Perry (who produced the movie). She’s best known for writing the screenplay for “Drumline.”
Chicago native Craig Robinson stars as Wade Walker, a happy-go-lucky children’s entertainer who has lived in Manhattan with high-power United Nations attorney Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington) for the past year but has yet to be introduced to her family.
When Wade is not invited to join Grace for a special weekend at her parents’ Sag Harbor home in the tony Hamptons on Long Island, the frustrated fellow decides to surprise her by crashing the festivities and then finally asking her to marry him.
What follows is a series of predictable mishaps, awkward moments and the revelation of numerous secrets involving Grace’s family, including her father, the very pompous Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier); mother Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson), and siblings Gloria and Simon (played by Kali Hawk and Tyler James Williams). Rounding out the group of key cast members is Kimrie Lewis-Davis as CNN reporter Gloria’s camerawoman, who we quickly learn is far more than just Gloria’s professional associate.
While “Peeples” follows a very predictable course as a romantic comedy and does not break any ground in that genre of filmmaking, this movie is more engaging than you might expect. That’s due to the ensemble of actors who give spot-on performances that actually enrich the fairly pedestrian screenplay, also written by director Chism. Those performances includes the smaller roles of Grace’s grandparents, played by veteran stars Melvin Van Peebles and Diahann Carroll.
While “Peeples” virtually offers an all-African-American cast, race is never once brought up as an issue of any kind. This is all about a successful family of overt over-achievers (motivated with a heavy hand by Grier’s patriarch character) who have serious doubts of whether a newcomer will make the grade and could be accepted into the Peeples family as one of them.
In short, it’s about class distinctions: An upper-class family family is presented with a working-class guy, struggling to make the grade, not because he cares a wit about which is the right fork to use but because he desperately wants to prove himself worthy of the girl he wants to marry.
It’s a struggle that so many couples have faced since the very beginning of civilization, ever since human beings began dividing themselves into a class system.