Turning the hit comedy Meet the Parents into a sitcom is creatively not a good idea, which has never stopped anyone in Hollywood from making it happen.
That digression aside, some level of proof is provided with Peeples, an ill-conceived ensemble comedy that liberally borrows the same premise and packages it in a generic way that seems a better fit for the small screen.
It’s a broad comedy about family dysfunction that provides some scattered laughs amid a story that is woefully familiar and predictable.
Wade (Craig Robinson) is a fledgling Manhattan children’s entertainer whose attractive girlfriend, Grace (Kerry Washington), comes from an affluent family.
The film follows Wade’s effort to surprise Grace at her family’s annual retreat to a beach house in the Hamptons, where he plans to propose. That plan backfires miserably when through a combination of circumstances and bad luck, mostly involving his misguided efforts to impress Grace’s overbearing father, Virgil (David Alan Grier), who also happens to be a respected judge.
Through the course of the weekend, however, Wade sees an opportunity in exposing the dark and dysfunctional secrets within the family, which includes Grace’s free-spirited mother (S. Epatha Merkerson), her kleptomaniac brother (Tyler James Williams) and her closeted lesbian sister (Kali Hawk).
The film marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism (ATL), who might have been better served with a darker, edgier approach to her material. Instead, the contrivances don’t allow any connection to reality, right down to the obligatory revelations and comeuppance in the final act.
The cast is agreeable enough, with established comedian Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine) earning the requisite underdog sympathy in his first major big-screen leading role. His chemistry with Washington is never quite right, but that’s not really the point.
Peeples occasionally ventures into farce, providing some amusing one-liners and sight gags. But for every big laugh, it seems there are multiple sequences that provide little more than filler, such as formulaic scenes involving karaoke montages and drugged-out shenanigans.
The film could make some halfhearted observations about socioeconomic differences and parental responsibility, but they’re muted beneath all the screwball antics and clumsy attempts and sentimentality. The characters might be Peeples, but they’re not people.
Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.