It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that I sat through Peeples wishing it were far more stupid, tasteless, and ridiculous than it is. In essence, the film is a cross between Meet the Parents and an Adam Sandler idiot-in-a-china-shop comedy. Craig Robinson, in his first starring movie role, plays the ungainly, badly dressed, but very sweet Wade Walker, who’s meeting the family of his girlfriend, Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington), at their majestic lakeside Sag Harbor home. The Peeples clan are so wealthy and respectable that Wade calls them ”the chocolate Kennedys.” And, of course, the father, a dour federal judge, takes an instant dislike to him. This ball-busting patriarch is played by David Alan Grier, who’s an inspired comic actor, but in Peeples, once you’ve chuckled at his dry disdain, there’s not much to the character. Grier isn’t allowed to hit the highs of absurdist aggression that Robert De Niro did in the Focker comedies.
Which would be fine if Robinson’s Wade were cracking us up with his inappropriate behavior. But here, too, the film soft-pedals its vulgarity: Wade never does anything too rude, and most of his ”screwups” aren’t really his fault (getting mistaken for a thief, or gifting a bottle of wine to Grace’s mother, who he wasn’t told is a recovering alcoholic). Director Tina Gordon Chism keeps the innocuous class-meets-crass jokes bubbling, and the actors are amiable, but Peeples often seems to want to turn these characters into benignly goofy role models. Maybe that’s why the basic comic collision never explodes. C+