Keeping Up With The Joneses is a zany spy/suburb comedy that was originally supposed to come out in April of this year, but was pushed back to October of this year.
The spy-movie genre is easy to spoof or turn into a comedy, and there are several movies that do a great job. I also love action comedies, and spy-based action comedies are nothing new, with Spy being the best of the recent crop.
In the case of Keeping Up With The Joneses (not to be confused with The Joneses from 2009 with Demi Moore and David Duchovny – very funny); we are introduced to Jeff and Karen Gaffney who just said goodbye to their two sons as they head off to summer camp. They are enjoying the simple life in their suburban Atlanta cul-de-sac, where just about everyone who lives there is working with Jeff at MBI – the local giant tech company that has several defense contracts. Jeff works in HR, and many of the upper-level folks who work on the top secret projects come downstairs to use his computer, since they are not allowed internet, but he is. Karen is working from home, and she seems to be redesigning bathrooms? I’m not entirely sure what her job is – but she’s working with the local real estate agent, Meg Craverston. Meg’s wife Dan works with Jeff, and while they are chatting one evening, Meg let’s Jeff and Karen know that they can soon expect new neighbors.
The new neighbors move in, and Karen spends some time scoping them out, not entirely sure they are on the level. Tim and Natalie, the Joneses, seem to be too close to perfect, he’s a travel writer who speaks multiple languages, and she’s a cooking blogger and Orphanage supporter. He also creates blown glass sculptures as a hobby, because, why not? Their secret is revealed to the audience pretty quickly, as we learn they are spies who seem to be researching MBI, and using Jeff’s computer to do it.
Tim takes Jeff out to a secret “Cobra bar” to bond and try to get dirt on his co-workers, while Karen tails Natalie as she’s shopping. Later, when the Joneses go out, Karen and Jeff break into the Joneses house, and realize they are up to no good. Eventually, things come to a head when Karen and Jeff try to meet up with the head of security from his building, and are attacked by henchmen. The Joneses rescue them, and reveal to them that they are after The Scorpion – who is an arms dealer. Because there’s always an arms dealer named after a scary bug. Remember that bit from True Lies?
After this exciting car chase escapade, the Gaffneys witness the Joneses house explode just after they had entered. Pretty sure they didn’t make it, the Gaffneys are surprised to find the Joneses in their basement with Dan and Meg Craverston strapped to chairs. They’ve learned that Dan is the mole, and now Jeff volunteers to take Dan’s place in a meet with the Scorpion so that the Joneses can bust him once and for all.
Directed by Greg Mottola, who did Superbad, Adventureland, and Paul, the movie is both shot and set in suburban Atlanta. The cul-de-sac is charming and lovely, the action is great, and the comedy moments are good – if not great. The story is nothing new, and fairly simple and straightforward. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and the difference between a good movie and a great movie is if the cast can elevate the material that is there as opposed to simply executing it. This cast is game, and does a good job of executing, but I’m not sure any of them actually elevate the material.
- Isla Fisher plays Karen Gaffney and is good at the bored suburban housewife who falls into stalking her new neighbors for something interesting to do. I really was mystified by her job. She just designs bathrooms? All we saw her do was move a urinal around on a computer screen. Maybe there’s good money in the whole computer-urinal game that I’m not aware of.
- Zach Galifianakis plays Jeff Gaffney, and is better here than I have seen him in a long time because instead of disappearing into a completely zany character, he’s playing a regular guy, who is really good at his HR job, can read people well, and is genuinely nice enough to want to help everyone.
- Gal Gadot plays Natalie Jones, and is of course wonderful at the action – which we knew from the Fast and Furious movies – and gives us great hope for the Wonder Woman movie. I was a little surprised at how good she was at the smaller moments, and the comedy.
- Jon Hamm plays Tim Jones, and does a really good job of giving Tim just enough layers that you believe he probably wouldn’t be in his line of work if he could avoid it. His own surprise at his developing friendship with Jeff makes the movie. Hamm and Galifianakis have been friends for years, and that chemistry really does come through in the movie.
- Patton Oswalt plays the Scorpion
- Maribeth Monroe plays Meg Craverston, the real estate neighbor. Matt Walsh plays Dan Craverston who is just desperate enough to steal from his company and sell it to the Scorpion.
- Kevin Dunn plays the MBI head of Security, Carl Pronger – which was a surprise, he had only two scenes. I feel like Kevin Dunn needs more than that. Am I overestimating the star-power of Kevin Dunn? Perhaps.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie – but I didn’t love it. I feel like Mr. and Mrs. Smith was along the same lines, and was a little bit funnier. The Gaffneys were supposed to be the audience’s eyes in to the spy world, and we were seeing the oddity of their spy neighbors through their perspective. I almost feel that the story needed more development of the two couples getting to know one another, but the movie was at right about the right length as it was, so it didn’t need to be any longer.
6 out of 10 – not terrible, not great, but overall enjoyable.
Bonus – The Joneses Trailer.