Keeping Up with the Joneses is sufficiently entertaining, albeit almost completely inconsequential.
Poor suburbia. It’s been getting a lot of flak lately. Certainly most of it’s justified. There was that nightmare ride in suburban New York with The Girl on the Train. Now the Joneses have moved into a sugar-sweet and super-affluent suburban Atlanta neighborhood that offers up a little annual community cultural celebration called Junetoberfest.
Who are the Joneses? Are they celebrities moving into the area? They seem to be wealthy. After all, they bought the house next door sight unseen. Maybe they’re going to start a meth lab on Maple Circle (hey, it’s greater metro Atlanta; almost every other street is named Peachtree, why not make it Peachtree Circle?).
Actually, they’re undercover agents working on a case involving U.S. national security. Tim (Jon Hamm, TV’s Mad Men) works under the guise of a travel writer. His wife, Natalie (Gal Gadot, Batman v. Superman), has a more intricate cover. She’s a social media consultant and an online cooking sensation, plus she has a philanthropic passion: helping Sri Lankan orphans, which she promotes on her cooking website. She’s a wonder woman indeed. She’s also burdened with perfect skin and bone structure. (Editor’s note: The author of this review is similarly burdened.)
As events unfold, it’s not lost on the Joneses that after spending the past 10 years living abroad in 30 countries working on incredibly challenging missions, it’s suburban America that almost brings their undoing.
The Joneses are moving next door to the Gaffneys. Jeff (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover Trilogy) is an HR advisor at an aerospace company. His wife, Karen (Isla Fisher, Confessions of a Shopaholic), is a homemaker. They have two kids and, aside from that, they have no life.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones
Those kids are never actually on-screen participants, which is kinda funny in itself. As the movie begins, Jeff and Karen wave goodbye to them as they take off on a two-week school trip, then they’re limited to a family photo and a humorous phone call involving cookies at the most inopportune time for Mom and Dad Gaffney.
The movie benefits from a certain quotability factor that should lead to a healthy replay factor on home video outlets.
Natalie in particular makes a couple zingers. As rough examples: “Never judge a woman by her spice rack” and “I may not need to moisturize, but I still have feelings.”
And Jeff talks about how it’s a dark and dangerous world. But he’s coming at it from a totally different perspective from the Joneses. Jeff looks at the world through a rather emasculated prism and he talks about going to his safe place and other puffy, wimpy notions.
It’s a brisk and light affair as this very likable cast makes its way through a romp that’s a grab gab of gags that work and some that don’t. And there are a couple missed opportunities.
There could’ve been some funny subplots involving Karen and her own espionage gear. She rather conspicuously brandishes some spy-tech binoculars while scoping out the new neighbors. Maybe make the Joneses a little more suspicious of the Gaffneys and what they’re capable of.
But, perhaps most disappointing, is the lack of a character arc for the Gaffneys. They go through an incredible adventure with two superspies and yet, in the end, they’re still the same boobs, albeit with a newfound sense of living in a larger world, a sense that takes them to Marrakech and a favorite café of the Joneses. From the tables of that café, though, it’s clear they haven’t learned much.