Ben Schwartz, Michael C. Hall, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen Tobolowsky,… (Alexandra Weiss / IFC Films )
By turns flat and strained, "Peep World" is a collection of personality disorders in search of a story. On the evidence of the finished product, it's hard to judge what drew the strong cast — Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman and Judy Greer among them. Perhaps it was the opportunity to riff off one another, although under the direction of Barry W. Blaustein ("The Ringer"), there's barely a suggestion of comic energy, and Lewis Black's voice-over narration does nothing to up the ante.
The hackneyed dysfunctional-family script, credited to Peter Himmelstein, spins a series of unfunny gags and on-the-nose dialogue around four adult siblings, each dreading the looming dinner for their father's birthday — an event that, inexplicably, their remarried mother (Lesley Ann Warren) also attends.
Heightening the tension around this year's gathering is the mega-success of youngest son Nathan (Ben Schwartz), who's on a book tour for his bestselling novel. Sister Cheri (Silverman), a perpetually incensed artiste manqué, is suing over the thinly veiled family exposé; her struggling older brothers (Hall, Wilson) strike quieter notes of protest.
Whatever affection the director feels for these ranters and pouters is lost in a shrill stew of resentment, with time out for one character's misadventure with an erectile dysfunction drug — which is nearly as excruciating to watch as it is for him to experience. With Ron Rifkin's paterfamilias a venomous gargoyle, Greer and Taraji P. Henson provide much-needed glimmers of warmth as the two eldest siblings' significant others.
"Peep World." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, and Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.