Peep World

21 May

Title: Peep World
Barry W. Blaustein
Writer: Peter Himmelstein
Judy Greer, Michael C. Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Kate Mara, Ron Rifkin, Ben Schwartz, Sarah Silverman, Octavia Spencer, Lesley Ann Warren, Rainn Wilson, Alicia Witt
MPAA Rating: 
Not rated
89 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

When I saw the cast that had lined up for Peep World I was ridiculously excited. I mean, Judy Greer, Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, just look at those names up there, it’s like a cast of really awesome actors that are usually stuck in supporting roles getting together to share the spotlight here. However, the script that they have to work with in this one, the debut screenplay by Peter Himmelstein, is really undeserving of such a terrific ensemble. And I have no idea how director Barry W. Blaustein, a writer for Saturday Night Live in the 80’s who most famously directed The Nutty Professor, managed to get this incredible bunch of people together, but he should thank his lucky stars, because it’s them that make this movie bearable, doing their all to add to a script that otherwise would’ve only been useful to make a pretty crappy film.

In all honesty, whatever level of success you may think this film has achieved you can go ahead and attribute the full extent of it to the cast, because they are the ones that keep this one afloat. Which is why I get why some critics have been pretty critical of this movie, with the L.A. Times calling it “flat and strained” and Variety calling it “lame”, but I just love these actors together too much to really hate on it on that level. I mean, yes, the film does indulge itself in quite a bit of flat jokes and formulaic dilemmas that have an outcome that won’t be that hard to predict for us as an audience, but at least you have talented people who are good enough to do their all to polish said bits and pieces into something far more watchable than the script would initially suggest.

The film tells the story of a dysfunctional family that gather to celebrate the 70th birthday of the family patriarch, played by Ron Rifkin. But you know from the get-go that everything’s gonna go wrong, and the catalyst for such circumstances is the book that the family’s youngest son, Nathan, has written, which is this tell-all exposé of the family with all their dirty little secrets recounted in it. You get Jack, for instance, the eldest son, an architect with a business that’s failing and married to Laura, the character played the always exquisite Judy Greer, who’s pregnant. And they’re just way off as a couple, she has her issues, and he has his, which he tries to resolve by getting into these online porn live shows, which he confesses to Nathan and which gives the name to both Nathan’s book and this movie.

We also have Cheri, the drama queen sister portrayed by the awesome Sarah Silverman delivering a performance that was surprisingly good for this movie. Cheri’s this wannabe-actress who’s struggling in her career and who has to deal with the fact that Peep World, the book, is becoming a film and there’s this far more successful actress playing her in a rather unflattering light. So you see what this is all about, Nathaniel, now famous, messed up with the lives of his family members and can’t really seem to get what all the fuss is about and we’ll get to see how it all unravels as this mixed bag of individuals gathers around together for an unforgettable family dinner.

The problem is, though, that the family dinner is actually kind of forgettable. We get introduced to this family, get to know their secrets, their traits, but we don’t get nearly as many laughs as the film was so obviously aiming for. So, for that I’m a bit pissed at Peep World, because its potential was so immediately squandered by a painfully obvious lack of ambition from the get-go, with the movie resolving to an over-used arsenal of cheap jokes and stupid stereotypes that help no one. And that’s what killed the movie the most for me, the stereotypes. I mean, when you have a roster of actors so deep with talent and you ask them all to play types and not roles then you’re bound to get a crappy result, and even though these actors you can see are really giving it their all to make their characters more fleshed out and the script better, it’s still not really good enough.

I’ll take a second here to give props to the four actors who I thought this movie way better than it was meant to be: Judy Greer, Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson and Sarah Silverman. I mean, Ms. Greer I have a crush on and I think is insanely talented, and in this one, especially in the scenes she shares with Mr. Hall, who also has shining moments of his own, she gives her character this sense of warmth that’s really terrific to watch. Mr. Wilson for his part embeds his own charm and likability to a character that otherwise would have probably been stale would he have played it just from script. And Ms. Silverman, like I said, I found to be really surprising, being really great in a role I probably wouldn’t have normally envisioned for her.

But still, for the incredible people gathered here, this is a disappointment. Yes, the vast majority of them are pretty good here, but they are working from a script so bad that the movie’s hard for me to recommend. I especially hated that voice-over narrations provided by Lewis Black, I thought they were completely useless here. Yes, a lot of films based on eccentric families have used them to great effect, I’m thinking mostly about Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, which had an amazing narration by Alec Baldwin, or the ones Ron Howard provided in Arrested Development if we’re talking about TV. But the thing is those narrations had something to say, they had wit to their remarks, which is something that Mr. Black’s narrations, which always state the obvious, never really come close to achieving. And nor does the whole film, for that matter.

Grade: C+


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