Film Review: ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’11/2/2016
When you hear names like Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh and Maribeth Monroe, one might expect to see a film littered with laughs and gut-wrenching guffaws. However, “Keeping Up with the Joneses” is a lackluster attempt at a suburban mystery/spy flick.
With their children at summer camp, Jeff (Galifianakis) and Karen (Fisher) Gaffney prepare for a sexless summer filled with snooping on their new neighbors. Jeff, who works as a Human Resources rep for MSI — a non-descript agency that develops computer chips for the U.S. government — believes that all issues can be resolved through communication. Karen, though supportive of her husband, follows her gut instinct and is a strong woman with stronger intuition.
Their new neighbors — the Joneses — settle in the cul-de-sac, and their flawless looks and tales of world travel quickly wear thin on Karen as she suspects they may not be who they claim. Their beautiful physiques, fascinating work life and sexual chemistry are simply too perfect to believe.
This movie fails to deliver for a litany of reasons. Galifianakis seems too restrained, and his comedy tends to come from absurdist reactions to otherwise straitlaced situations. His mannerisms are reminiscent of a reined-in version of his “twin brother,” Seth Galifianakis. Hamm fits in his role best as the James Bond-like spy who one can’t help but think he is better than his peers.
Fisher delivers the most comedy of the bunch, wonderfully capturing the paranoid neighbor who can drop all her plans on a moment’s notice to follow her strange neighbors around town. A scene in her bedroom where she’s sneaking around and rolling under windows to avoid detection by neighbors was especially funny.
However, Gal Gadot’s Mrs. Jones character seems more at home in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” than in this suburban comedy. One scene features a scantily-clad Gadot trying on lingerie. The set-up is that she calls her husband to describe how the outfit makes her feel — her “thing” to keep the spice in their marriage. However, this slowly shifts to five minutes of uncut screen time in which two women who don’t know each other try on underwear and give each other unsolicited marriage advice.
“Keeping Up with the Joneses” has likeable actors but is a disappointing film. When the comedy doesn’t deliver in an action/comedy, the action must pick up the slack. This was not the case here, as movie-goers are given predictable car chases and an ambiguous villain with an unfortunate name.
There’s nothing surprising or unexpected about this movie. Does exposure to the Gaffneys’ humdrum lifestyle awaken a yearning in the Joneses for the more mundane aspects of life? Ding-ding! Do the Gaffneys find the spark their dull marriage desperately needs? You’re damn right it does.
Those of you looking for a great comedy about paranoid neighbors and how that paranoia can destroy your neighborhood, watch Joe Dante’s “The Burbs.” If you want to see Fisher and Gadot living out a stereotypical male fantasy, check out “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” ♦