Published May 09, 2013Often, the urban remake of a populist, ostensibly white comedy or genre film serves as an entertaining form of didacticism, commenting on the hypocritical relationship between racial presentations within the cultural lexicon while exploring different avenues of storytelling logic.
Oddly, Caucasian Mormon Neil LaBute has been the cleverest in subverting this taboo topic, exposing double standards by doing something as simple as reversing the race of characters, making throwaway films like Death at a Funeral and Lakeview Terrace into a pedagogical, albeit playfully trashy and entertaining, dialogue.
And while works like The Honeymooners, and almost anything with Queen Latifah, have been a little too on-the-nose for their own good, they had a bit more self-awareness than Tina Gordon Chism's ersatz urban remake of Meet the Parents. Like a pared down Jumping the Broom, its preoccupation is that of emotional transparency and familial secrets exposed through class system behaviours.
Grace (Kerry Washington), a lawyer and the daughter of affluent Judge Virgil (David Alan Grier), has a repressed disposition, utilizing a safe word during discomforting conversations with her cartoonishly open boyfriend, Wade (Craig Robinson). He spells out the film's themes early on, helping children battle bedwetting through emotional honesty and the power of song.
His genial temperament is inevitably a bit of a problem when he makes an unwelcome and unannounced visit to Sag Harbor to visit Grace's family and propose marriage, something her uptight, performative and traditionally patriarchal father, in a Cosby Show sort of way, will have none of. But while the tension between Robinson and Grier carries the comic element of the first half of Peeples, the disarmingly sentimental and overly contrived manner in which the second half unfolds is television sitcom clumsy, exacerbated by Chism's rather lacklustre aesthetic.
To reiterate the aforementioned themes, each member of Grace's family is given a thinly veiled secret (drug addiction, lesbianism and thievery) that Wade gradually exposes in a harmonious, ultimately cathartic manner. These broad, hammy and out-of-place sidebars involving nude swimming and unexpected threesomes do little to further the already evident agenda, coming off mostly as strained attempts at base comedy, with far too much cheese to titillate and provoke as intended.
Much as the construct of antiquated gender performance was of concern in Meet the Parents, Peeples projects the same generational lesson onto the issue of race relations and social performance and "power" as an inherently white, heteronormative construct. But the satire of it all is as tired as the grating comedy and lethargic storytelling, playing more as a mediocre mid-'90s half-hour comedy than the biting feature-length film intended. (eOne)