KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES Review
Director: Greg Mottola
How can a film be so patently unfunny that viewers forget the talent present on camera? Ask Greg Mottola. With his latest foray into comedy, the same man that brought us the arguably timeless 2007 hit SUPERBAD has crafted the blandest spy movie of the year. That’s saying a lot when considering the dour state of affairs in the espionage subgenre, a niche that has lately been relegated to subpar James Bond and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE outings, as well as the equally middling comedic workings of Paul Feig, Guy Ritchie, and Matthew Vaughan. And yet, I would never go as far as to call any of these films insufferable. But KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is on a whole new level, a film so woefully unfocused that the most basic tenets of comedy are not obeyed.
The Gaffneys are your average suburban couple, your friendly Christian neighbors that are too prude to do anything exciting with their life. All things considered, Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are the perfect cast for this tag-team. The Joneses are a pair of sexy, top-secret government agents. When all’s said and done, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are solid casting choices for this duo as well. But KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is akin to cooking a ketchup pasta. The intention is in the right place, but the ingredients don’t actually line up. Galifianakis is consistently subpar, Fisher is undeniably charming but ostensibly flat, Gadot is objectively bad, and Hamm shows potential that never finds its boiling point.
“Honey look: I found our dignity!”
On paper, Mottola’s film is just another spin on THE WHOLE NINE YARDS. But the humor here is dead in the water. 21st century comedy is so littered with improvisation that films are glorified standup routines at their worst. Even when we’re talking GHOSTBUSTERS or ZOOLANDER 2, the camera is on the funnyman for long enough to get a good joke in. But KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES fails at both visual and dramatic comedy. Dialogue isn’t funny. Comedic timing is always a little off, and Gal Gadot is a sore thumb among her more experienced co-stars. That isn’t to say that anyone here actually does a good job, but when Galifianakis and Hamm share the screen, they induce enough chuckles to imply that the conceit shows promise. Unfortunately, the entire ride is rendered meaningless through overall incompetence.
What really irks me the most is how ugly KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is. For an ensemble comedy set in an American suburb, this is not a film that requires a boatload of talent. But Mottola’s film is visually bankrupt, a foggy mess that looks like every lens got fogged up by a stray labrador. It makes the experience all the more impenetrable. The lackluster comedy is doubly loathsome through this amateurish aesthetic, inspiring more groans than laughs. Mottola clearly phoned in KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES, and maybe his involvement in tweaking the screenplay was nonexistent, but why he wasn’t able to turn in capable buddy-dynamics between his male and female leads is beyond me.
Pictured: Hamm and Gadot get distracted watching a better film
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES tries to be a film. It builds the façade of an espionage comedy, clearly inspired by the likes of SPY and 22 JUMP STREET, and hopes that its actors can salvage what’s lacking in plot. But it doesn’t. Galifianakis’s character traits serve as vestiges of what maybe once was a subplot pertaining to his life as an HR representative, and Fisher’s background in interior decorating feels completely trivial to the greater narrative. Gal Gadot’s stilted performance reminded me more of REAL ROB‘s Patricia Schneider, and Jon Hamm, as much as he tried, had absolutely nobody to work with here, leaving me consistently unamused. The real question is this: Where are the funny actors in Hollywood? Did they all die with Gene Wilder?
As I sat in the theatre and awkwardly eyeballed the broad demographic that had joined me on this fateful night, I was in awe that literally nobody was laughing. A man next to me kept mumbling “this movie doesn’t make sense” to his girlfriend, and the 10 year-old in front of me was so bored that he got up and left the theatre without parental supervision. A middling gag about Bruce Springsteen reminded me of an inside joke I share with some friends, causing me to burst into a laugh that certainly left the theatre sorely confused. But the Boss notwithstanding, I wouldn’t keep up with the Joneses, because they certainly don’t seem to know where they’re going.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend