Keeping Up with the Joneses review
While as a twenty something, my goal is to travel and see more of the world. But for those that have become tired from their job and having a family, I can understand how the simplicity of suburbia can be appealing. Each house tends to be nice and planned so that their located not too far from the groceries and whatever they need. They’re usually also close by to the schools of the children that live in the neighborhood. While I can see the image as too normal for some people, this is actually a fairly common goal as a part of the American dream.
What can make suburbia interesting is considering neighbors that seem more reclusive then the stereotype that would better suit the neighborhood. Perhaps their a rich author that wants little attention. Or they might be a secret inventor working on a government assignment. Any number of possibilities have brought out some creative ideas in the world of cinema. The first that comes to mind is the Joe Dante directed comedy-thriller, The ‘Burbs. That was about Tom Hanks thinking that his new neighbors were mass murderers. With Keeping Up with the Joneses, our main characters suspect that their neighbors are spies.
Jeff Gaffney (played by Zach Galifianakis) is an HR guy at a weapons manufacture who only seems to get visitors that either need the internet (which is apparently not allowed to the upper level employees) or deal with office fights. He and his wife Karen (played by Isla Fisher) have sent their boys off to summer camp and have hoped that having the house to themselves can spice up their marriage. That will have to wait as they also have to keep up with chatting with their neighbors, letting Karen deal with her interior design job and Jeff continuing to try and find a friend.
Little time is wasted as a nearby home is sold and is moved in practically overnight. Jeff immediately meet his new neighbors, the Joneses with husband Tim (played by Jon Hamm) and wife Natalie (played by Gal Gadot). They seem to be very smart and accomplished in ways that seem to good to be true. When Jeff and Karen investigate further, they discover that the Joneses are in fact spies. Soon, the Gaffneys are thrown into a world of international espionage and crazy gangs as they try to literally keep up with the Joneses.
While being forced to watch the antics of Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher dealing with ordinary situations, I kept preying that the Joneses would return to do something spy related. Keeping Up with the Joneses isn’t a bad idea for a comedy, about spies trying to adapt to ordinary suburban life, so why did the screenplay force it’s audience to watch an unfunny regular set of Joes? So much more could have been given to us had our main characters been Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. Their the ones that seem like their trying to be funny along with the charisma that seems in tune with a regular spy story.
With what we have, I did laugh a few times. A lot of the movie seems to have traits of director Greg Mottola’s earlier films like Superbad and Adventureland. But a lot of the strange decisions from revealing that the Joneses are spies early and using a lot of unconvincing effects (it has to be one of the most fake house explosions I’ve seen in a studio production). On the plus I won’t reveal who the main villain is, but he could have saved this movie had he come in earlier.
I’ll give this two and a half stress balls out of five. Keeping Up with the Joneses is a proper title, because I wished that the film had kept up with them and made them the main characters. But with Zach Galifianakis? I don’t know if he’s been saddled with bad scripts, but he needs to consider the film projects he chooses. This might make for a passable comedy for some couples wanting an easy movie for a Netflix rent, but I certainly won’t be returning to it.