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'Peeples' review: Nothing risked, nothing gained

** (out of four)

Maybe people faint all the time. I’ve never seen it. By my count, movie characters faint roughly 450,000 times more often than real people do.

Comic effect is one thing, but who really laughs at someone fainting? Much like the considerably more painful “The Big Wedding,” “Peeples” trots out familiar comedy tropes simply for lack of other ideas. The film incorporates not one but two unintentional drug trips, which I think is a button on screenwriting software that automatically writes generic, dude-I’m-freaking-out scenes for you.

In other words, the biggest starring role for Chicago native Craig Robinson (“The Office”) goes in one ear and out the other, through no fault of his. Robinson’s an appealing teddy bear, but the kind of teddy bear (a distant relative of actual stuffed animal Ted?) who hears about Moby Dick day and makes a joke about, well, take a guess.

Robinson plays Wade, who after a year of dating wants to meet his better-half Grace’s (Kerry Washington) parents, especially now that he’s had an engagement ring in his pocket for three months and hasn’t pulled the trigger. Before you can say “Meet the Parents,” Wade gets humped by the family dog and continually disappoints his potential father-in-law (David Alan Grier), a federal judge perhaps modeled on Uncle Phil of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Surprise surprise—every time Wade tries to propose a phone rings or everyone's called for lunch or whatever. The movie’s best moments let Robinson vamp and showcase his musicality. Wade performs songs to kids to help them express themselves—“Speak it, don’t leak it!” preaches an anti-peeing-your-pants message—and later imitates Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video when criticizing the age of Grace’s exes. But “Peeples” starts in a rut and stays there, like a dog told to sit and never reminded to stand again. Grace’s sister, Gloria (Kalli Hawk), considers coming out of the closet while her family is totally oblivious to the nature of her relationship with Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis). Wade’s brother (Malcolm Barrett) shows up saying Gloria looks too good not to be hit on, regardless of her sexuality.

That doesn’t exactly take Gloria’s identity seriously, nor does the note that she and Meg played rugby together in college. For a movie that makes repeated reference to major figures in black history, you’d think all stereotypes would be a no-no.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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