Critics Review: Tyler Perry Studios Presents ‘Peeples’

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  • From Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films and Executive Producer Charles Dutton, comes the light and friendly comedy, Peeples starring Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, Tyler James Williams and Kali Hawk. Written and Directed by Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline), Peeples takes a good look at an affluent black family that has more secrets than Victoria’s entire closet.

    How many secrets is your family hiding?

    Jokingly referred to as “The Black Kennedys” the Peeples family represent the backbone of Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington), a successful lawyer who’s found a loving relationship with Wade Walker (Craig Robinson), a man with a chosen profession of singing incontinence songs to young children. Despite the couples’ somewhat blind romance of beauty queen meets big guy and falls in love story, the two are living together peacefully. There’s only one problem: no one in Grace’s family really knows the two lovebirds are shacking up.

    Who are we to judge?

    Speaking of judge, that so happens to be the profession of Grace’s father, Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier). Judge Peeples is a well-respected, tough, take-no-prisoners, sailboat-by-the-bay, college Frat man, who thrives on competition and things that make perfect sense. Add Daphne Peeples (S. Epatha Merkerson), a mother who’s a reformed disco queen and proud 11-step member (she clearly missed the 12th step) and Simon (Tyler James Williams), a teenage boy with an identity crisis and sticky fingers, and you’ve got a recipe for a large number of high-profile families in America; oh, and an unlikely cast who shuffle a full deck of fun on screen. And did we mention Gloria (Kali Hawk), Grace’s sister, who’s successfully holding a secret about her lifestyle that only someone who wasn’t in complete denial could see.

    Bring it home to Daddy

    The film is set in a mega-home in the Hamptons, complete with a guesthouse, large scruffy dog and old school Schwinns for the whole family. When Wade unexpectedly show’s up, despite Grace’s ability to avoid any conversation about her family, he’s given a cold welcome by Grace’s people…or rather, Peeples. She forgot to mention, or maybe purposely failed to mention her serious (non-physician or lawyer) boyfriend or their cohabiting environment.

    The Real Thing

    Writer and Director Tina Gordon Chism wrote ‘Peeples’ after she encountered a similar dating experience in real life. While she and her beau didn’t work things out in the end, she picked up enough material through her own roller coaster with her exes family to stir-up an hour and a half of laughs. There’s something about being around a bunch of people holding secrets so deep that the truth is as evident as oil and vinegar on a bread plate. Chism could see that something fishy lied beneath the sterling silver surface of the rich black family and perhaps it was up to her to cast a pole. Or, at least write a screenplay about it.

    When I interviewed Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson, my first question was about their physical interaction. After all, there was kissing, hugging, a Catholic schoolgirl costume, rulers and squealing involved. I asked the two in a dual interview, “Was the Kiss magical for both of you?” Almost immediately, they both replied “Oh yeah, it was the best ever” followed by some pretty solid giggling (well, at least for me and Kerry). Robinson admits that it might’ve been a little more in it for him than it was for Washington. You think?

    ‘Peeples’ was a first time comedy for Kerry Washington. As an ABC Scandal fan, I watched the film waiting for Olivia Pope to break through with a cold, yet warm stare. Never happened. She was Grace Peeples all the way through, even down to the denial of a breast enlargement after she was outed by her own shroom-eating mother.

    In the behind the scenes outtakes, only available through conversation with the cast, they all agreed that David Alan Grier kept them on the rib-splitting side of work everyday. Grier even sang the same song on the shuttle bus every morning. In a scene in which the family gets caught in a rainstorm, I asked Grier and Merkerson about getting hosed down by the crew to get that drenched look. Grier replied, “I’m sure there’s a racial joke in here somewhere.”  Well, It is the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights movement. I suppose he did have a point.

    As the interviews, wrapped up, I left the room, well versed in a children’s song about incontinence, aware of Robinson’s excitement over kissing Kerry and smacking that [go see the film] and confident that David Alan Grier was pleased with my recent pedicure.

    Yes, it really happened.

    ‘Peeples’ is a great ‘family reunion round one’ for you and your own peoples to check out. Even your tweens will enjoy, and possibly relate to the antics of Craig Robinson and Tyler James Williams. Who knows, you might see some similarities between those Peeples and yours.

    Peeples starts in theaters nationwide on May 10th.

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