Thursday, January 12, 2017

Movie Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

Keeping Up with the Joneses
Directed by: Greg Mottola.
Written by: Michael LeSieur.
Starring: Zach Galifianakis (Jeff Gaffney), Isla Fisher (Karen Gaffney), Jon Hamm (Tim Jones), Gal Gadot (Natalie Jones), Patton Oswalt (Scorpion), Ming Zhao (Scorpion's Girlfriend), Matt Walsh (Dan Craverston), Maribeth Monroe (Meg Craverston), Michael Liu (Yang), Kevin Dunn (Carl Pronger).
Keeping Up with the Joneses commits the crime of having four talented stars, and then giving them almost nothing of interest to do. I was reminded a little of this year’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, in that I would, without question, watch another comedy starring its four leads, even though this one did absolutely nothing for me. Sure, the film is perhaps an okay time waster – something to fold laundry to on a Sunday afternoon when it plays on TBS, where you can wander in and out, and perhaps doze on the couch for a few minutes without worrying about missing anything. But given the talent involved, that has to rank as a pretty big disappointment, no?
The film stars Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher and Jeff and Karen Gaffney – he’s an overly cheerful HR worker, who actually believes in the BS slogans he spews, and she’s a stay at home mom, turned interior decorator – although she only has one client. They’ve just gotten rid of their kids for the summer – sending them off to camp – and now they have to deal with more time with each other – and although there is a montage of all the depraved sex they could have with each other, they opt instead to watch The Good Wife on DVR. Their lives get more interesting when the Joneses’ move in across the street – this couple is impossibly perfectly, played by the impossibly good looking Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. They are perhaps too perfect, which raises Karen’s suspicions – leading her to follow Natalie Jones around. This leads to a scene in which Gadot and Fisher stand around in lingerie for minutes on end that somehow still manages to be kind of dull. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the “secret” of the movie – which the Joneses are really spies, and that, somehow, the Gaffney’s will become embroiled in their latest escapades.
What’s somewhat disappointing about the film is that it keeps pushing up against some interesting ideas – couples who have trouble reconnecting after years of their lives revolving around their children, Hamm’s own dissatisfaction with his job, etc. and then jettisoning those idea for another broad comedic moment, or a subpar action sequences. The cast is talented, but not really given much to do – Galifianakis is less wacky than normal, but the effect is that he’s basically kind of dull. Fisher, usually a comedic firecracker, tries really hard, but doesn’t really have a character. Gadot, the best thing in Batman v. Superman, as Wonder Woman, is impossibly good looking, and her role seems to be entirely to be impossibly good looking. Hamm probably has the most fun with his role, perhaps because he excels at seeming to not give a shit.
The film has a laugh or two, here and there. I would like to see a movie with these four stars, written to their strengths, because that may be downright hilarious. But here, everyone seems shoehorned into their roles, and the film takes the path of least resistance at every turn. The film is directed by Greg Motolla – who has excellent films like Superbad and Adventureland on his resume – but here, like everyone else, he seems to simply be going through the motions.

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