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'Peeples' review: Nice family, but you've already met them

Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis, left) and Gloria Peeples (Kali

Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis, left) and Gloria Peeples (Kali Hawk, right) in "Peeples." Credit: Nicole Rivelli

In the comedy "Peeples," Wade Walker (Craig Robinson) is a children's musician hoping to propose to high-powered lawyer Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington) while vacationing with her family in Sag Harbor. From the start, however, Grace's father, federal judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), decides he has to undermine this unworthy slacker. The more Wade tries to prove himself, the worse things go, until even Grace begins wondering whether she's made the right choice.

Sound familiar? "Peeples" is a just-this-side-of-legal knockoff of "Meet the Parents," altered only by minor script details and an African-American cast.

Tyler Perry produced "Peeples," and it bears his distinctly formulaic stamp, but it isn't a completely cynical exercise. Among its saving graces are a winning performance from Grier as the relentlessly humorless Virgil, and an overall generosity of spirit from writer Tina Gordon Chism ("Drumline"), making her directorial debut.

"Peeples" is the first leading role for Robinson, a breakout star of NBC's "The Office" who still tends toward smaller roles in comedies like "Hot Tub Time Machine." As Wade, a freewheeling dude living an extended casual Friday, he's endearing but never exactly riotous.

Most of the laughs come from Grier, whose displeased smirks would wither a British lord, and from Malcolm Barrett as Wade's brash brother, Chris. The wonderful S. Epatha Merkerson, best known as the no-nonsense Lt. Van Buren on NBC's "Law & Order," cuts loose as Virgil's wife, a former disco singer; Melvin Van Peebles and Diahann Carroll appear briefly as Grandpa and Nana Peeples.

"Peeples" introduces a gay subplot early on, but handles the issue respectfully (if not exactly deftly), using it to put forth an overall message of acceptance. That's refreshing, as is the movie's mostly good-natured sense of humor. It's almost enough to make you forget that you've seen the entire thing before.

PLOT An underachiever crashes his girlfriend's family vacation hoping to impress her hard-to-please father.

RATING PG-13 (language, racy humor, drug use)

CAST Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier


BOTTOM LINE Far from original -- try not to think about "Meet the Parents" -- but the likable cast and good- natured humor go a long way.

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