Keeping Up with the Joneses online movie review - Keeping Up with the Joneses Weighs Down Its Cast and Director with Lazy Material but is Still Sporadically Funny
Did we really need another spy comedy/parody about covert agents invading the suburbs? Don't get me wrong, I didn't go into Keeping Up with the Joneses despising the premise or refusing to laugh.
But the concept has been done again and again so you have to bring something new and fresh to the genre to justify another movie. The pieces are here, Zach Galafinakis and Isla Fisher both have experience being leads in popular comedies and Jon Hamm is coming off of Mad Men and Gal Gadot is about to get her own movie as Wonder Woman. Add that with Greg Motolla, director of hits like Superbad, Adventureland and Paul and you get the recipe for what should be a funny post-summer movie. I wasn't necessarily surprised by the bad reviews but I decided to go see it anyway. I would find this movie hard to recommend to everyone but I found that there was just enough here to make it worth my time watching it.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifanakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) are a typical suburban couple living in a peaceful suburb. Jeff works in the HR department of MBI, a local tech giant. He spends his workdays solving petty disputes between his colleagues and shooting the breeze with some of his co-workers including Dan Craverston (Matt Walsh). Karen is an interior decorator who is starting a job for the Craverston's redesigning their bathroom. They just sent the kids off to camp and even though you would think they would spend their time enjoying each others company, they continue on with their routine. New neighbours quickly move into the cul-de-sac named Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot). They're very accomplished and stylish and well-travelled, so much so that it raises Karen's suspicions that there is something off about them. Jeff tries to explain to her that she's just nervous about the kids being gone. Karen remains undeterred and begins to follow Natalie around, discovering that there is indeed more than meets the eye when it comes to the Jones family.
If the summary seems a little familiar except with some different names when it comes to the cast and the characters, its because it is similar to other movies. Having seen the movie now, I can confirm that the plot and how the characters are written are pretty run-of-the-mill. Don't go into Keeping Up With the Joneses expecting a boldly new plot or expertly written dialogue. There are funny jokes here but the movie isn't in the laugh-a-minute variety. The strengths of the movie are with the chemistry between the cast and the improvised stuff they can come up with, not on the script which honestly seems to hamper them rather than help.
While the movie isn't relying on excellent source material, it does have a pretty talented cast. I think this movie proves that Zach Galifanakis works better in small doses and shouldn't be leading comedies. He does deliver some funny lines here but there are times where he's also painfully unfunny. His best stuff is still Allan from the Hangover and he's not consistent enough to carry his own movies. Luckily this is more of an ensemble film. Everyone knows Jon Hamm from Mad Men but he's pretty funny when he wants to be (check out his small part in Bridesmaids). He's the one with the most charisma here and he works well off of the rest of the cast. Gal Gadot still isn't the strongest actress but she's still very likable and she's well cast. She's not a comedienne but she has funny scenes and the movie knows how to use her. I was happy to see Isla Fisher again, she's an underrated comedic actress. Her character got on my nerves but that wasn't Isla's fault. It's not terribly realistic that she would be married to Zach Galifanakis but she's still funny in her own right. I also liked Patton Oswalt's cameo, it could have been corny but I think both he and the movie played it about right.
The last positive I can say was for a comedy, there were some decently filmed action scenes. I would say that they aren't John Wick, Deadpool or Kingsman good, not by a long shot. But for a movie that seemed poorly plotted and sloppy overall, it was nice to see that they put the effort into making the action look semi-believable. I would largely credit Motolla and his team for making the movie look good. There isn't anything terribly special with the cinematography but with some solid action and nice looking locations, it certainly helped the movie's grade.
This movie took a beating from the critics and from most of the user reports I have read. I liked Keeping Up with the Joneses but it's a movie that isn't easy to defend. It probably should have been better with the team that they had assembled but what they gave us was perfectly serviceable. If you're in the mood to check out a comedy and you can go in with low expectations (that's a must for this movie) I think you can get a few laughs out of Keeping Up with the Joneses.