Not too long ago, Zach Galifianakis appeared in Masterminds, a comedy that seemingly had all the right ingredients, but never quite materialized. The same can be said about Keeping Up with the Joneses, another comedy starring Galifianakis and several other capable actors. What’s more, the film’s director is none other than Greg Mottola, the same man who gave us the uproarious Superbad, not to mention the underrated Paul and Adventureland. Even the premise is littered with great comedic potential. Alas, this is one of those movies where you’re constantly waiting for the laughs and they sadly just don’t come.
Alas, this is one of those movies where you’re constantly waiting for the laughs and they sadly just don’t come.
Galifianakis is Jeff and Isla Fisher is Karen, a married couple that’s lost the spark in their love life. Their ordinary cul-de-sac suddenly becomes a lot more interesting when the Joneses move in across the street. Jon Hamm plays Tim and Gal Gadot plays Natalie, the definition of a perfect couple. Jeff is eager to befriend the new neighbors, although Karen is a bit more suspicious. It turns out Karen is onto something, as the Joneses are actually undercover spies trying to track down a traitor at Jeff’s company.
While this is certainly a funny setup, the filmmakers don’t take advantage of the possibilities that are practically giftwrapped to them. For example, there’s a subplot involving Jeff having a man crush on Tim, but it fails to go anywhere. It’s suggested that Karen might be developing an uncomfortable physical attraction towards the flawless Natalie, but it doesn’t amount to much either. There’s also a scene where Jeff and Karen are nearly caught breaking into the Joneses house, but they escape all too easily. Instead, Keeping Up with the Joneses just delivers the same old shootouts and slapstick routines we’ve seen a million times before.
Keeping Up with the Joneses just delivers the same old shootouts and slapstick routines we’ve seen a million times before.
Despite falling short in the laugh department, the movie isn’t without a few humorous moments. Of course this is primarily thanks to the cast. Isla Fisher brings a certain Lucille Ball quality to her performance as a nosy neighbor. Gal Gadot, who was previously seen as Wonder Woman, continues to surprise with strong comedic chops. Jon Hamm is well suited to play a dashing super spy and Galifianakis does fine in an against type role as the straight man. We even get a fun cameo from the always-welcome Patton Oswalt. Yet, the material simply isn’t worthy of their efforts.
On paper, Keeping Up with the Joneses might sound like Mr. & Mrs. Smith meets Spy. Unfortunately, it’s more along the lines of Killers with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. While it’s not a complete disaster like the latter film, Keeping Up with the Joneses is an undeniable disappointment nonetheless. There are so many inspired ideas here that should hit bull’s-eyes. Every time a joke is perfectly set up, though, the film somehow fires a blank.