It’s hard to know how to classify “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” a new film starring Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis. Billed as an action comedy, it contains as many laughs as your average Jason Bourne movie, and as much action as your typical comedy. If anything, it’s a study of quietly desperate suburban life. Now that’s a barrel of laughs!
Karen and Jeff Gaffney (Fisher and Galifianakis) live a quiet life on a quiet Atlanta residential cul-de-sac. He’s a people person, a sensitive HR head at tech giant MBI, she’s a designer and neighbourhood busybody. He doesn’t like spicy food, she doesn’t like the new, impossibly good looking couple, Natalie and Tim Jones (Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm), who have moved in across the street.
Tim is a travel writer who speaks many languages, Natalie devotes time to charity and does a food blog. The couples seem to have nothing in common—the Gaffney’s idea of travelling is going to Epcot. “You can do every country in like three blocks.”—and yet a friendship is struck until some snooping reveals the neighbourhood newbies are actually spies working on a case. Seems the cul-de-sac is a hotbed of international intrigue and the Gaffneys may be involved.
“Keeping Up with the Joneses” is an odd couples movie with so few laughs its hard to believe it was directed by the Greg Mottola, who also gave us “Superbad” and the ET comedy “Paul.” The ‘they’re not who they seem to be’ premise is either a classic or a tired bit, depending on your point of view. Either way a twist or two could have freshened the screwball idea up but instead Mottola shrugs off the heavy lifting to Galifianakis and Fisher. Both can be funny and both will do almost anything to get a laugh but no amount of slapstick and face pulling can inject yuks into what is a sitcom idea stretched thin.
But at least there’s some action, right? Not so fast. There are a handful of tame action sequences synced to lame music that appears lifted from 1980s action adventure TV show.
So, with few laughs and lame action what’s left? Hamm’s rugged good looks? Gadot’s cheekbones? Check and check, both are on display but their genetic gifts are not enough to make their characters interesting.
“Keeping Up with the Joneses” will make you jones for laughs and action.