Keeping Up with the Joneses

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Release: Friday, October 21, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Michael LeSieur

Directed by: Greg Mottola

For those who have been keeping track, Keeping Up with the Joneses is the second Zach Galifianakis film to be released in as many months, and it too is terrible. It too is a silly film, a very, very silly film. What’s worse is that the film’s chief sillyhead plays it painfully straight. That’s not silly; that’s just frustrating.

The level of entertainment found in this dumbed-down action-comedy is as disposable as a . . . oh, I don’t know, something that’s really disposable; the laughs number in the negatives; hot women kiss to the delight of male viewers and the annoyance of their female partners. I went to see this as part of an (in hindsight) ill-advised solo mission and I found that moment not so much provocative — I think that’s what director Greg Mottola (Superbad; Adventureland) was going for — as it was indicative of precisely the low-brow kind of fantasy it turns out to be.

The plot’s an old rusting bucket of cliches but it could have been fun: when two boring suburbanites, Jeff and Karen Gaffney (Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) suspect their new neighbors of not being who they say they are, they turn into paranoid peeping toms bent on figuring out what combination of ridiculous factors have not only afforded them a life of luxury and bliss but that has caused them to drift into the unsuspecting cul-de-sac in which the Gaffney’s proudly have plopped themselves down. Their neighbors, of course, are the Joneses. Say that with a smile on your face — we’re the Jonesesssss!

Tim Jones (played by Jon Hamm, whose name is far superior to that of his character) is a super-duper spy of some sort — could be CIA, could be NSA, could be Melissa McCarthy in another ridiculous, albeit more convincing get-up — and he lives a life of mystery with his wife Natalie (Gal Gadot), also a spy. The Joneses are everything the Gaffneys are not. The former seem exotic; the latter have been domesticated and have settled for the routine and the mundane. The Joneses know how to fire weapons in high-stress situations. The Gaffneys . . . do not. We imagine the Joneses having just, like, the best sex ever. When pressed, Karen admits to “getting it done fast before the kids come into the bedroom.”

The script is the main culprit behind the lack of engagement in Keeping Up with the Joneses. The fish-out-of-water adventure lacks not only intelligence but creativity. None of what Galifianakis does is really humorous; his take on the suburban dad isn’t offensive but it’s far from interesting while there’s nary a hint of Fisher’s brilliantly unhinged Stage 5 Clinger in Wedding Crashers. She looks great in a skin-tight dress though, and that’s clearly the bar she had to clear for the director. On the other side of the fence, Hamm and Gadot make for a reasonably compelling pair but they’re similarly constrained by the grade-school screenwriting. And though he’s often funny in other stuff, Patton Oswalt just looks bored as the Big Bad, some dude named ‘Scorpion.’

The entire time I was watching this I couldn’t shake the feeling that these talented actors were just playing nice. They were being charitable. Their performances often register a sense of fatigue and if not fatigue then indifference. And if people who get paid to pretend are pretending not to look unprofessional, I see no reason why I have to pretend like I’m actually having fun here. Although, it’s hard to resist smirking whenever you see Matt Walsh. So there’s that.

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Recommendation: Massively disposable action comedy consistently wastes the talents of this cast and the time of everyone in attendance. Or, I guess not, since everyone in the theater I was in was laughing like hyenas. Clearly I was just the grinch, and I can’t get anything out of lightweight comedies these days. But come on, really? This was made by the same guy who made Superbad and Adventureland? Hmm . . . .

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 105 mins.

Quoted: “I was making a head start!” / “On your wife?!” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed, written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.latimes.com 

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15 thoughts on “Keeping Up with the Joneses

  1. Oy, I was laughing at the trailer and I love Gal Gadot, but I’m glad I skipped the press screening. I still might rent it though Tom, I figure it’s still worth a look if it’s free right? 🙂

    • Hey, free is free! I definitely don’t think this is “the worst thing ever” but I also didn’t think it did many things right. It has a lot of potential, and maybe others will get more out of it than I did.

    • That is exactly what I should have done but Zach Galifianakis just draws me in every time. Wait, I think it was Galifianakis, and not Isla Fisher. Hmm. . . wait a sec . . . now I’m not sure. Well, either way — it wasn’t worth it. Lol

  2. At least Isla Fisher was smoking! I mean that dress she was rocking and that lingerie scene…ooh la la!

    Dude, my theater ate this one up too. Maybe we’re just jaded? I think this will be OK watching in a few years on TBS, playing alongside DInner for Schmucks, Due Date, and any other Zach G movie not The Hangover. As a theater watch? Ehh…

    And LMAO, I thought about abbreviating this in my thoughts to KUWTJ, but that looked too funky and I couldn’t bring myself to do so.

    • Isla Fisher almost made up for what this film basically lacked in every department. She has great (physical) presence — and she’s usually funny! Not here! No one was. I couldn’t believe how bad the script was. Just atrocious.

  3. I knew this one would be shitty… sad to see it lives up to expectations. Comedies can be so good, so it is just a damn shame that they are still making stuff like this. But then, the general populace seems to enjoy these alongside the Adam Sandler traumas, so I guess it is only us handfuls that seem to get that movies (and even comedies) can be way better than this.

    • I really, really could not have put that better myself Nat. Totally agree. i mean, KUWTJ . . . wow what a weird looking acronym . . . isn’t like the worst thing ever but it wastes a lot of potential.

      I don’t blame you for disliking Superbad. It is an insanely sexist movie, told from the perspective of some really horny high school boys. I can’t really justify how I end up liking that movie and disliking others. I guess because the writing for that movie was actually good and spoke to the high school experience.

      • I thought you would say KUWTK – I was like noooo Tom why are you watching that haha

        I only saw Superbad last year – I think that is partly the problem. The people who really loved it all saw it as teenagers, and at that stage of life it would be totally relatable.

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