KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES (USA/12A/101mins)
Directed by Greg Mottola. Starring Gal Gadot, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Zach Galiafinakis, Matt Walsh
THE PLOT:
Karen (Isla Fisher) and Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galiafinakis) live a quiet life in the suburbs of Atlanta, but all of this changes when the accomplished, beautiful and charming Joneses move in to the neighbourhood. Suspicious that people like Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot) would move into such a sleepy area, she begins to spy on them and eventually discovers the truth; Tim and Natalie are not who they appear to be.
THE VERDICT: 2016 has already given us two spy comedies; ‘Central Intelligence’ and ‘Grimsby’, and with Melissa McCarthy’s ‘Spy’ just in our rearview mirrors, it seems like overkill to have another one hit Irish cinemas so soon… Yet here we are.
Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm play the beautiful, charming and overly accomplished Joneses, and they do OK with the roles, which just require them to look pretty, be affectionate with one another and occasionally up the action ante. It’s a shame to see Jon Hamm’s comedic timing wasted here though, as he is trying to read the fine line between comedy and drama without ever settling on either. Zach Galiafinakis and Isla Fisher play the comedic couple to Hamm and Gadot’s straight couple, and are fine in the roles that require them to be bumbling and freaked out all the time. The rest of the cast features Matt Walsh, Maribeth Monroe and Patton Oswalt.
The biggest movie credit to writer Michael LeSieur’s name so far is the 2006 comedy ‘You, Me and Dupree’, but he has been working on TV in the intervening years. The main trouble with ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’ is that it is simply not funny… Although not for the want of trying. It is this forced feel that sucks most of the fun out of the film, so while the film has three actors who have proved their skills at comedy time and again – Jon Hamm, Zach Galiafinakis and Isla Fisher – the wit and sparkle the film needed is sorely missing.
Director Greg Mottola has also been quiet after his run of comedies in the Noughties – ‘Superbad’, ‘Adventureland’ and ‘Paul’ – and this is the first film from him since 2011. Trouble arises for Mottola with the pacing of the film; it is almost an hour in before the story truly gets moving, and although there are some high octane set pieces throughout the film, they do nothing to speed up the pacing. As well as this, seeing the same actors play familiar roles time and time again becomes dull; switching the roles of the Joneses and the Gaffneys could have lent more fun to the film, although anyone who would believe that Gal Gadot is a stay at home mom may have their priorities skewed.
In all, ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’ is a familiar spy comedy in a year seemingly filled with spy comedies. It’s a shame to see Galiafinakis and Fisher play familiar roles, and see Jon Hamm’s comedic talents so sorely wasted, although there is a certain charm to Gal Gadot trying to step out of the Wonder Woman box. The jokes don’t land, however, and the pacing is too slow for the film to ever feel like there is anything truly at risk.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    A strong contender for the worst film of the year, Keeping Up With The Joneses is one of those ‘comedies’ that mistakes an unlikely scenario as a chance to put two characters through a life-changing adventure. Hmm…

    Suburban couple Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen (Isla Fisher) are adapting to life at home without their children, who have gone off to summer camp. Jeff works in human resources and isn’t particularly good at it, while Karen designs bathrooms and, er, urinals. Their boring, ordinary lives are about to change though when their new neighbours move in. Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (Gal Gadot) Jones are everything they’re not – glamourous, successful, loved-up and are able to speak multiple languages. Jeff and Karen try to find out more by spying on their neighbours, but they find that Tim and Natalie are really spying on them. They’re Government spies looking to catch a traitor in Jeff’s company who is leaking secrets. Soon, they rope in Jeff and Karen to take part in their dangerous mission…

    Oh dear… What happened to the career of Greg Mottola? He made some great films recently like Superbad and Adventureland, but he’s hit the bottom of the barrel here with Keeping Up With The Joneses. It’s a weak-minded ‘comedy’ from a script by Michael LeSieur. It relies far too much on coincidence and borrows heavily from other films like Mr And Mrs Smith and even The Joneses. You can see exactly where it’s going early on, with all plot points marked out in big neon signs. The whole film is pretty much in the trailer too.

    Another problem with it is that the script is so clunky and full of clangers that it isn’t really that funny. Jeff runs into a plate glass window. Jeff runs away from his wife at the first sign of danger. Karen has to be dragged around by her feet. That’s very lazy scriptwriting which struggles to even get a laugh. That’s fatal for a so-called comedy. The performances are all poor too – everyone looks they’d rather be in something else and are just collecting paycheques. It’s also rather boring too. Keeping Up With The Joneses is the kind of film that you should only watch on an airplane. It’s so dumb and mindless that it might offer a brief distraction from the droning hum of airplane engines. An awful, feeble film. *