Director Greg Mottola certainly has it in him. We know he can direct both a big-budget riot (2007’s Superbad) and a small-budget gem (2009’s Adventureland). Perhaps we’ll never know, however, what drew him to Keeping Up with the Joneses. Another forgettable comedy, the likes of which has plagued 2016 (Masterminds, Bad Moms, Sausage Party, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Ghostbusters, Neighbors 2), Joneses will come and go with barely a yawn to acknowledge it.
Everything from the premise to the script to the performances (by actors with proven track records) is just…there. Despite some funny moments and a couple that are even worth a belly laugh, there’s just not enough to add up to anything approaching an entertaining movie.
Zach Galifianakis stars as Jeff Gaffney, an HR rep at a local aerospace and defense company, whose wife Karen (Isla Fisher) is an interior designer. They live quiet lives on a cul-de-sac in an Atlanta suburb, whiling away the hours with The Good Wife on the DVR. Everything gets turned on its head, though, when perfect couple Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) move in next door. Karen is immediately suspicious and begins spying on the Joneses, while naive Jeff is convinced there’s nothing to worry about. Guess which one of them is right?
Anyone who’s seen the trailer (or has an ounce of common sense) knows exactly how this un-comedy of errors plays out. Yes, the Joneses are not who they seem to be, and yes, it takes no time at all for the Gaffneys to wind up over their head in the middle of a kerfuffle. There’s a car chase, an accident involving a tranquilizer dart, and of course the requisite realization by the Gaffneys that their humdrum life has been humdrum.
What’s also humdrum (and lazy and wildly uneven) is the script by Michael LeSieur, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that the only other recognizable credit he has is the lame screenplay for the ridiculous You, Me, and Dupree. Surely we can’t blame Mottola (other than for agreeing to sign on to direct Joneses in the first place), and there’s no denying the (wasted) talents of any of the cast, which also includes Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh, and Kevin Dunn. (Sidenote: If anyone can explain Dunn’s subplot I’m all ears.) So the blame for this 105-minute bit of tediousness lands squarely at LeSieur’s feet.
Keeping Up with the Joneses will come and go with little, if any, fanfare, and that seems like a fitting outcome for a movie that seems like it got little, if any, effort from anyone involved. For once we have a set of Joneses no one will want to keep up with.