Keeping Up with the Joneses full movie review - "Keeping Up with the Joneses"- A so-so comedy salvaged and saved by its highly likable cast.
Another victim in the rash of high-profile flops in 2016, director Greg Motolla's "Keeping Up with the Joneses" is on the surface a wholly unremarkable film in virtually every sense.
Its high concept plot and broad, calculated comedy set-pieces following the long-standing tropes and clichés of modern comedies verbatim, the film is very much a rinse- and-repeat affair. It's essentially a retelling of many a contemporary comedy film, liberally borrowing plot-points and sequences from everything from "The Burbs" to "Meet the Parents" to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." And yet, despite its almost cynical structuring and writing, there's somehow still much fun to be had with the proceedings, thanks in no small part to the very enjoyable and highly likable cast, who elevate the sub-standard material far beyond the reaches it would seem to have based on its shallow scripting.
In a seemingly idyllic upper-class neighborhood, couple Jeff and Karen Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) contend with their ho- hum, everyday lives, struggling to try and re- ignite the "spark" in their marriage now that their children are away at camp for the Summer. The neighborhood is rocked by the arrival of the Joneses (Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot), the hot, young new couple moving in down the street, whose lack of fault and apparent "perfection" in virtually every sense makes them both the subject of admiration and suspicion to their new neighbors. While they try to be hospitable, the Gaffney's soon learn that they had every right to doubt the Joneses- quickly realizing that they are actually government super-spies who are in town on a very specific mission... a mission that whether or not they like it, they will become a part of.
The beating heart of the film is our four leads, who thankfully are able to create and maintain enough good will from the audience to salvage and save the otherwise forgettable affair. I've always said that one of the most important things a comedy can have is a sense of charm when it comes to the leads, and that should this sense of charm be properly established and developed upon, then a lot of faults can be forgiven. And I do think that's the case here. Galifianakis and Fisher make for a set of great leads, with just enough of a subdued spunk to make you crack a smirk and a chuckle with their antics. They're portrayed just "boring-yet-zany" enough that it lets the comedy organically flow, and many of the film's best moments are not the action-beats or the broad gags, but just the fun little moments of a husband and wife riffing off of each other in a given scene.
Hamm and Gadot are also a great bit of fun. While he's known more for his roles in business suits spouting intense dialog, I've always found Jon Hamm a very capable and entertaining comedic figure with his supporting roles in works like "30 Rock" and "Bridesmaids." It's nice seeing him as one of the big stars in a straight-comedy where he can stretch his legs a bit more. He's got a great sense of banter with the rest of the cast and continues to ooze that coolness that made him such an appealing figure. Gadot was the one hold-out that I was apprehensive about going in. I'm only familiar with her of course from her turn as Wonder Woman in the ridiculous let-down that was "Batman V Superman", and while she did kick major butt, she often fell very flat for me. And I'm a bit on the fence here. She's obviously shown off on camera quite a bit and continues to prove a very capable action heroine, but in the more subdued moments attempting at creating a minor sense of drama... she does fine, but never quite reaches the level of the rest of the cast. Thankfully, she proves a good presence on the whole, thanks to a few good laughs and a nice bit of chemistry with Hamm and particularly Fisher. She may not be the next great comedic actress, but she's good fun here and seems to be having a great time trying something new.
When it all comes down to it, "Keeping Up with the Joneses" is a film all about the cast and character humor. Its plotting and story are amongst its most disposable facets. And while it does try to mix things up a bit with action set-pieces in its second half and some attempts are wild gross-out/slapstick humor at times, those are the parts where I found myself checking out. It's in the plethora of sequences where Galifianakis and Fisher are allowed to be a fun, enjoyable couple... the scenes where Fisher and Gadot have fun beats as they get to know each other... the scenes where Galifianakis and Hamm hang out as "just a couple guys in an extraordinary situation"... its those scenes where the film is at its best. It would have almost been far more interesting a film if it eschewed its overall storyline and instead focused on just what it was like to discover your neighbors are super-spies for the government. But for what it is, its definitely serviceable thanks to those great performers that ratchet up the entertainment factor. It's not a great movie by any means. But it definitely is a very watchable piece of good-old "dumb fun", and would make for a good diversion on a rainy day when you don't feel like leaving the house.
I'm giving "Keeping Up with the Joneses" a slightly above average 6 out of 10. Don't let the poor critical reception frighten you off. If you're in the mood for a couple of laughs, you could do far worse. And if it's a film you think looks entertaining enough, chances are you'll have a good time. Everyone at my theater certainly seemed to be having one... even if we also occasionally rolled our eyes in between giggles.