TL;DR – On the one hand this film does nothing new, and follows the same patterns and tropes of the genre, on the other hand, everybody commits to their roles, so it actually turns out quite good.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
When you go to a Hollywood movie that describes itself as an ‘action-comedy’ especially an American PG-13 ‘action comedy’, it tends to follow a very predictable route, characters are put into a zany situation, there will be some risqué subject material, but not too risqué, and they will drop their one F-Bomb at some point in the film and Keeping Up with the Joneses does not deviate from this at all. Indeed The Joneses fits very comfortably within the buddy-cop, or fish out of water genre, by taking two very different couples and then playing them off each other, and in that interplay hopefully some humour can be found. So the question then becomes can The Joneses solid enough film to sustain its premise for the whole film whilst still being entertaining, and well for me, I think they pulled it off.
Keeping Up with the Joneses tells the story of Jeff & Karen Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis & Isla Fisher) a perfectly normal suburban couple who celebrate finally sending their kids off to camp for the summer by watching a recorded copy of the Good Wife. Things become interesting when new neighbours Tim & Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm & Gal Gadot) move in. Tim is a travel writer and Natalie runs a cooking blog and together they have seen the world. However, it soon becomes clear that there is more to the Joneses that what first appears, or maybe Karen is just paranoid.
So it should be clear by now that The Joneses does nothing new, they hit all the same tropes you would come to expect, but still, I kind of dug this movie, and I think that is all down to the actors putting in 100%. The four leads just commit to their roles even if they are all really silly. It might be weird to say but I really liked seeing Zach Galifianakis play the straight role in this movie, he tends to be typecasted as the zany sidekick, but here he showed a very restrained and nuanced performance. John ‘I am ridiculously suave’ Hamm excels in the role of the secret agent man but also a slightly conflicted secret agent man, he delivers lines on blown glass with a full sincerity which you have to give props to. I didn’t really get a sense of Gal Gadot’s charisma and charm from Batman v Superman [Review], however, like many things in that film it looks like that was because of poor direction/writing. Here, Gadot really gets the chance to have a bit of fun and she gives a much more engaging performance. I didn’t mind Isla Fisher’s performance but it is a bit annoying up until the 2nd act turn around, though this might just be a residual annoyance on my part for all those bank ads we get subjected to in Australia. Hell even when Patton Oswalt shows up for a moment he smashes it for 100% and is a delight to watch.
While it might all be predictable I did like how they staged many of the scenes throughout the movie. Take the scene in an ‘exotic animal’ bar, from the first few moments you probably will know how it will end, but it does such a good job of getting you to engage with the characters that you forget and then bam they hit you with the joke they had been holding onto for five minutes. The movie has a lot of these really well-constructed sequences, but the story connecting them does not quite always hold up, and indeed if you know anything about intelligence services you be poking holes in the plot left, right and centre. As well as this, some sequences like the 2nd act car chase do seem to go on for a bit too long and start losing their impact.
While I did like The Joneses, there were some issues that did stop it from excelling. As I have said there is nothing new with this movie, and while that is not usually a problem as they do it so well, unfortunately as the film goes on it starts to lose some of its charm. For example, the coincidences in the 3rd act just feel really contrived to make conflict. Some of the recurring jokes start to lose a bit of their impact as they get used a bit too much and in general it did feel like the ending fell a little flat. Also, the vast majority of the supporting cast felt more like window dressing rather than actual characters, which is a shame.
In the end Keeping Up with the Joneses reminded me of the excellent Get Smart movie but it just doesn’t quite get there. However, did I laugh, yes, did I have fun, yes, and would I recommend it, actually yes, yes I would.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Greg Mottola
Written by – Michael LeSieur
Music by – Jake Monaco
Starring – Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot & Patton Oswalt
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG13