Susan Granger’s review of “Peep World” (IFC Films)
Unreeling like the discarded spawn of “The Royal Tenebaums,” this is a wannabe satire about the four neurotic adult sibings of a Jewish patriarch, Henry Meyerwitz (Ron Rivkin), a nasty, self-centered, ambitious Los Angeles real estate mogul, who is celebrating his 70th birthday.
Introduced by an unseen narrator (Lewis Black), there’s the oldest son Jack (Michael C. Hall), supposedly the responsible one, except that he’s a failed architect who doesn’t build anything and whose very pregnant wife, Laura (Judy Greer), mutters obscenities at him in her sleep. To get away from his troubles, Jack frequents the peep-show porn parlor from which the title is derived. There’s bitchy Cheri (Sarah Silverman), a sulky actress/singer/songwriter with a Jews-for-Jesus boyfriend (Stephen Tobolowsky). There’s Joel (Rainn Wilson), a perennial ne’er-do-well who has finally passed the Law Bar exam and is being pursued by a pair of persistent Hispanic loan sharks, a fact that he’s hiding from his girlfriend, Mary (Taraji P. Henson), a soon-to-be-divorced police officer. And the youngest, 29 year-old Nathan (Ben Schwartz), who has just published a sleazy best-seller called “Peep World” which spills all the Meyerwitz family conflicts and secrets, including Cheri’s having slept with the entire cast of “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding.” Self-consciously condescending and truly clueless, Nathan is accompanied by an admiring publicist (Kate Mara) who agrees to help him deal with the embarrassingly painful result of an impromptu visit to a dubious doctor about his premature ejaculation problem.
Directed by Barry W. Blaustein (“The Ringer,” “The Mat”) from a totally predictable debut screenplay by Peter Himmelstein, the ensemble concept not only resembles “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001) but also Denmark’s “The Celebration” (1998). Joining the gathering around the family dinner table, there’s Henry‘s long-suffering first wife (Lesley Ann Warren), her new husband (Nicolas Hormann) and Henry’s young actress girlfriend (Alicia Witt), who has been cast as Cheri in an upcoming “Peep World”-based movie.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Peep World” is a formulaic 4, striking a sour note in the increasingly overcrowded dysfunctional family ‘black comedy’ genre.