Film: Peep World

Wow, what a colossal waste of talent. Peep World (2010) is an ensemble comedy full of talented actors, but it lacks pace, timing, and funny dialogue. For a ninety minute film, it feels much, much longer.

It’s the story of the Meyerwitz family, in particular four siblings: responsible but unmotivated Jack (Michael C. Hall), hysterical Cheri (Sarah Silverman), ne’er-do-well Joel (Rainn Wilson), and — the foursome’s only rousing success — writer Nathan (Ben Schwartz). Nathan’s brutally honest novel Peep World, based all too closely on the family, has turned it into an emotional hornet’s nest. The exposed dirty laundry makes for an awkward birthday dinner for their father Henry (Ron Rifkin), who is the king of all heartless money-grubbing asshole dads.

Unnecessarily narrated by Lewis Black, Peep World strives to be an edgy, quirky, conflict-driven comedy, but delivers no laughs; there may be a smirk here or there. It’s like an extended episode of Modern Family, without the crisp editing, clever lines, and spot-on family chemistry. The characters are unlikable, most of them unredeemed until — as in a typical Modern Family episode — the ending, when the film lurches awkwardly into heartfelt drama territory. But by then it’s far too late.

The performances are decent, but what a shame the movie couldn’t make better use of its acting potential. The talented cast also includes Judy Greer, Taraji P. Henson, Kate Mara, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Lesley Ann Warren, and everyone is game for the effort, but the script gives them precious little to work with. A disappointing miss.

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