Peeples get ready/A son-in-law is coming
You won’t do no laughing/You’ll just get bored.
All they needed was a screenplay/And I wouldn’t be bummin’
Didn’t pay for the ticket/For that I thank the Lord!
I hate Tyler Perry movies, but I was hopeful, since he merely produced this. That means no Madea.
I wasn’t worried that they didn’t screen this movie for the critics, which is usually the sign of a turkey. I looked at the cast and immediately thought – you couldn’t ask for a better bunch for a film like this. They got Melvin Van Peebles and Diahann Carroll as the grandparents. An actress named S. Epatha Merkerson (Lincoln, Terminator 2) that I wish I saw more of in movies. There’s Kerry Washington (Django Unchained), who is one of the cutest women in Hollywood. And the comedy is driven by two guys I’ve always cracked up at. There’s Craig Robinson, who was so funny he parlayed his small role in The Office into one of the main characters. He was also the funniest person in Hot Tub Time Machine (a comedy that surprisingly worked). Perhaps he’s not ready to carry a film himself, although the fact that he can sing and play keyboards worked for his character. He performs kid songs, and is hoping to someday be a child psychiatrist.
The matriarch of the Peeples clan is David Alan Grier. From his time on In Living Color and frequent guest on all Adam Carolla’s shows – I’m convinced he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. It’s a shame he didn’t do a single funny thing in this movie.
This rips off so many other movies, I started to think it should just be called Meet the Peeples. The worst part about them borrowing from other movies and TV shows, is that they did scenes that just weren’t funny. For example, in the movie Knocked Up, it’s hysterical when Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen trip out on mushrooms while watching Cirque du soleil. In this movie, we get two freak out scenes. Neither of them funny. And since one of them has D.A.G. reading parts of Moby Dick, it seems the opportunity for some whale visuals could’ve worked.
All of the characters in this were underwritten, and the film couldn’t find a consistent tone. Worse, is that it isn’t funny. I chuckled three times.
Here’s the premise. Robinson shows up uninvited to the parents house in the Hamptons. He wasn’t invited to go with his girlfriend, but he wants to propose. He’s shocked to find the family knows nothing about him. He’s attacked by the family dog, and loses his wallet. The family is rich (he calls them the “chocolate Kennedy’s”), but they’re a mess. There’s an attractive sister that’s a CNN anchor. She’s in a lesbian relationship and her girlfriend is there with her. She just hasn’t told her parents about their relationship. There’s a teenager (Tyler James Williams, from Everybody Hates Chris) that’s intelligent, and makes rap videos for YouTube. He also steals. In one of the many movie pet peeves I have – when he steals his moms diamond earrings and everybody accuses Robinson – Robinson doesn’t tell anybody in the family he knows the kid jacked them.
S. Epatha Merkerson is the mom and she used to be an R&B star in the ‘70s. That could’ve been an interesting thing to explore. Instead we get jokes that have her fighting her alcoholism by gripping tightly to the bottle of wine Robinson brought. That brings in pet peeve #238, regarding alcoholism in movies. Why do filmmakers think it’s funny when a character has a drinking problem, and falls off the wagon? A few weeks ago in The Big Wedding, Robert De Niro talked about having 15 years of sobriety. Yet when the wedding is going to hell, he comes out saying crude things in a drunken stupor. The audience laughed, and I was baffled. Shouldn’t we feel horrible for this guy at that moment? Instead, what passes for humor is that Merkerson’s addiction has changed to pot and mushrooms. Nice.
And in what would’ve been a sweet moment – Robinson playing guitar while Merkerson sings one of her old hits on the patio with the entire family, D.A.G. is standing there with a scowl on his face. How does nobody in the family say “Hey dad, you’re being a jerk.”
Robinson has a brother in this movie played by Malcolm Barrett (The Hurt Locker). He gives off a Dave Chappelle/Martin Lawrence vibe that is sometimes amusing, yet it doesn’t make a lot of sense as to why he shows up; or why the two sisters decide to sleep with him after a fight they have.
This is the first time behind the camera for Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline). She wrote this screenplay and it’s so bad, I’m not sure why she didn’t offer Robinson and D.A.G. each $500,000 for some rewrites.
A lot of times a comedy like this has enough laughs, and heart, that you end up liking it enough. I was telling a friend afterwards (when we got on the topic of comedian Patton Oswalt), that I thought Failure to Launch had enough laughs that it worked as a comedy. It was a movie the critics tore apart, so it’s not like I’m asking for comedy classics each time out.
When Kerry Washington was on Jimmy Kimmel the other night, he was ribbing her about how she’d never go out with somebody that looked like Robinson in real life. She laughed and said he was an adorable teddy bear, etc. Those things never bother me in movies, because we’ve all seen couples in real life that are mismatched in the look department. I just want him to at least be charming, funny, and exude a bit of confidence. He often sings a song about children not making it to the toilet and peeing everywhere – yet in each scene he looks like he’s about to pee his pants. That time he sang on the patio, and a cute scene in which he plays a song at the piano for the parents, kind of works.
Since D.A.G. truly is one of the funniest people in the world (I was lucky enough to see him perform live about eight months ago downtown)…why not just make him this over-the-top crazy character. Let him adlib and just go nuts. They had him play it straight and just harass Robinson the way De Niro did to Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. That worked more because it was De Niro. D.A.G. is funny, so why waste his talents? Otherwise, hire a Samuel Jackson type to intimidate the future son-in-law (Jackson did have wonderful chemistry with Merkerson in Black Snake Moan).
As I sat here trying to think about the funny scenes in this movie, I just kept thinking of unfunny ones. There were also a surprisingly large amount of musical numbers. It almost bordered on turning into a musical. One in which Robinson is singing in a room by himself with an old outfit of Merkerson’s is probably the least funny, unnecessary, and unrealistic scene in a movie this year. Every scene I thought about made me dislike this movie even more.
The one truly funny scene (and often used plot device in films) shows Robinson and Washington running into a few of her old boyfriends at the grocery store. He goes into a hysterical rant because of their age.
I can’t recommend a movie based on one funny scene.
This gets 0 stars out of 5.