“Not everything is as it seems.”
This line is spoken by one of the characters in Keeping Up with the Joneses, the newest action spy comedy that opens in theaters this Friday. The trailer for the film seemed charming, though not really that funny. While trailers can sometimes mislead our expectations, in this case, the trailer is a fairly accurate representation of the film. Charming, but not that funny.
Jeff Gaffney (played by Zach Galifanakis in his second comedy film this month the first being Masterminds) is an HR consultant at a company involved with national security. He and his wife Karen (played by Isla Fisher) are bored with their life at home since they sent their children to summer camp. They fantasize about taking advantage of their alone time together, but just go about their ordinary routine with occasional viewings of The Good Wife. Things change, however, when a new couple move in to the house next door, the titular Joneses (played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot).
The Joneses seem nice, but over time, show that they seem too skilled and perfect to be just regular people. After the suspicious Karen does some snooping around, even going so far to breaking in to their house, she discovers that the Joneses are actually undercover spies investigating an espionage plot within Jeff’s company. Since the Gaffneys now know the Joneses’ identities, they are brought along for the ride, and finally get that thrill of excitement they were hoping for.
“Joneses” is the latest film from Greg Mottola, who previously helmed such credible comedies as Superbad, Paul, and Adventureland. Unfortunately, this film does not exactly top any of these in terms of comedy or action. Despite a rather gripping opening scene featuring a character’s house exploding, the film does not exactly soar to the comedic heights that the premise suggests. The first third of the film in particular moves slowly with only occasional funny moments, particularly around Karen needing to choose a urinal for a home she is redesigning.
To the film’s credit, the story kicks into gear once the Joneses’ identities are truly revealed, and the comedic chemistry between the actors starts to show. There are some interesting scenes in the film that provide slight commentary on suburban life, and on how couples communicate with one another. There is a scene where the two couples, after a chase, sit in a diner lamenting the events that lead them to this moment. Most of the charm comes from how the two couples work off of each other.
Isla Fisher is the one cast member who is consistently funny throughout the film, which is to be expected, because her natural charm has salvaged even the worst films of her career. The major highlights of the film are where she is snooping on the Joneses–in public and in their home. You can just feel her character desperately seeking excitement. She is ditzy, but she is also determined and adventurous—not to mention sexy, too!
The rest of the cast are uniformly fine in their roles, although they seem to be constrained by a script that can’t decide what to do with them. All of the snooping and action leads to a climax, which includes a cameo that I dare not spoil, and it manages to deliver an appropriate amount of action and giggles.
In the end, Keeping Up with the Joneses is serviceable. The plot is blandly predictable, and it could have been much funnier in places, but there is enough charm to keep the film from being a boring watch. Sadly, there is no need to rush out and see this film, and most likely it would suffice to be viewed as a video on demand rental. If you want a film to give you belly laughs, you would be better off watching Paul Feig’s Spy, but this film is okay to watch if you just want to have a good time at the movies. Not terrible, but not special either, the film is what it is.