Tyler Perry has become a brand name, as much as Disney or
Marvel, over the last decade. As a producer with considerable clout, he’s
enabled screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism to make her directorial debut, but sorry
to say, this domestic comedy has little to offer in the way of originality.
It’s an all-too-obvious spin on Meet the
Parents, with Craig Robinson as the boyfriend (and potential fiancée) that
Kerry Washington has been afraid to tell her family about, especially her
imperious father, a federal judge played by David Alan Grier.
You can already imagine the comic complications that arise
when he shows up unannounced at the family’s luxurious home in Sag Harbor, Long
Island. So could I. And it turns out every member of Washington’s family is harboring
a secret or two: a brother who’s a kleptomaniac, a sister who hasn’t yet come
out to her parents, a mother who’s sworn off alcohol but found an equally
potent substitute, etc. It all builds up to a faceoff between Robinson and
Grier at a ceremonial sweat lodge. Sweat lodge? That’s right: the movie takes
place in a tony community where there’s an annual celebration of Herman
Melville’s Moby Dick, replete with a
variety of arcane if long-standing traditions. Give Peeples points for
coming up with a subplot you’d never expect.
A talented cast makes the most of director Chism’s endlessly
busy screenplay. Grier does what he can with a one-note role as the unyielding
father, while S. Epatha Merkerson is warm and appealing as his wife. It’s
refreshing to have Melvin Van Peebles and Diahann Carroll cast as the
grandparents, even though they haven’t much to do. At center stage, Robinson
and Washington make a likable couple, and it’s nice to see her playing comedy
for a change. But no matter how you slice it, this is utterly predictable stuff.
The preview audience I saw it with
seemed to enjoy it all the same, but I prefer a fresher brand of comedy than Peeples has to offer.