Keeping Up with the Joneses and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Greg Mottola
Are you SURE I didn’t see this last month? I’m just getting the weirdest sense of déjà vu right now… Well either way, we’re stuck with another Zach Galifianakis comedy to throw on the pile, and the Unique Selling Point here is that it’s a spy movie. Sigh… Really? We just got a dumb criminal movie; now we’ve got him dicking around in the most overplayed genre of the year!? Well, who knows? Central Intelligence managed to be good despite its rather weak spy angle, and while Masterminds had a pretty strong cast as well, THIS one has sexiest man alive who’s named after food, Jon Hamm, as it’s costar! Maybe this could end up being really good! Right? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the Typical American Suburban CoupleTM made up of Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) who are living out what some dumbass Hollywood executives must believe are the normal lives of middle class white people. Jeff works at some defense company as the Human Resources manager which means he basically wastes people’s time and lets them use his computer for personal stuff. Basically he’s a doormat that’s merely tolerated by his peers, but he’s perfectly happy to live this life of quiet desperation for some reason and will probably be behind his crappy little desk until the day he keels over and dies. Those plans start to change though as the cul-de-sac gets new neighbors in the form of Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot) who are pretty bad at their jobs as they are OBVIOUSLY spies. In fact, they are so unsubtle about this that Karen picks up on it immediately and it doesn’t take long for her suspicious to be confirmed. By the time this happens though, both she and Jeff have already been dragged into some sort national security operation to prevent some sort of black market sale that was happening right under Jeff’s nose as SOMEONE who’s been using his computer was setting it all up from there! Now the two couples have to work together to save the world or something, and I’m SURE Jeff and Karen are gonna pull their weight in this situation and not be total albatrosses hanging around the necks of these two professional spies who ACTUALLY know what the hell they’re doing. Who is the person setting up the sale that will threaten national security, and why did they have to be a dick about it by using Jeff’s computer? The Joneses may seem like the perfect power couple, but are there issues that they aren’t addressing? Was anyone looking forward to this? Like… at all?
What the hell do you want me to say? I just saw this damn movie less than a month ago and I was barely in the mood to see it the first time around. Granted, this one is PROBABLY the better of the two with its stronger characters and a script that actually uses its solid cast effectively, but this is yet more of the same from Zach Galifianakis; not just because Masterminds came out not that long ago, but because he keeps playing the same damn character in everything he does. No wait, I’m sorry. He plays the same TWO characters in everything he does; either the mean man child or the unrealistically square dweeb… who’s also a man child. It’s a movie that just doesn’t feel like it justifies its own existence as we’ve got much better comedies and much better spy movies this year; and it’s not been a perfect year for either genre on top of that! Masterminds was put on the shelf for over a year before seeing the light of day and this one was pushed back over six months which turned out to be a HUGE mistake. This may be the better movie, but not so much that its release so soon after the other film is any less tedious. Or hell, why don’t we just stop making the same damn movie every single time with this guy? Can we try that at least!?
The Jones’s are supposed to be artificial and putting on a façade for the benefit of everyone else, but for me they weren’t any more outlandish and unrealistic in their depiction of upper class suburbia than anyone else who lived in the neighborhood. What’s the point of having a fish out of water story like this when it’s impossible to relate to what are ostensibly the avatars for the audience? The Gaffney’s do nothing to ground the material and are frankly more over the top than the super spies!? It wouldn’t be that big of a problem if they were at least funny, but all the Gaffney’s humor is based on lame and outdated stereotypes of married life that The Simpsons drove into the ground and evolved away from back when Clinton was still the First Lady. Zach Galifianakis is a complete tool with no sense of self-awareness or even general awareness to the world around him. Hell, he should have gotten his ass fired long ago as he’s clearly terrible at his job, and his negligence is partially responsible for everything that’s going on right now! You can have an exaggerated square be your lead in a movie if you give the audience a reason to like them and understand where they’re coming from. A solid example in my opinion is Jim Carrey’s character from Me, Myself, and Irene which is a movie that doesn’t get a lot of love, but is way better than what we’re getting right here in 2016. In that movie, they at least bothered to go through his backstory that led up to him being a total pushover, and the movie is all about him coming to grips with that. Here? Zach Galifianakis is treated like he’s just another Average Joe, and it’s kind of insulting in a broad sense that Hollywood thinks that middle America is going to relate to this loser enough to root for him.
Isla Fisher is fine as Zach Galifinakis’s wife and while she’s at least less of a walking talking cartoon, she’s still not all that interesting of a character and the movie doesn’t have much for her to do. It’d be nice if there was say… A CHARACTER ARC for these two that was less vague than them being in a rut; something that really isn’t even brought up until much later in the movie and feels completely perfunctory in this already lame Spy Thriller. Seriously, why is this the year of terrible spy movies!? Maybe it’s because of how simple of a formula it sounds on paper (excuses to use gadgets, fire guns, throw in a few car chases) that so many studios are cranking these out, but the last few months have shown that it’s far too easy to screw up and make an incomprehensible and completely unbelievable plot that fails to carry the movie through to the end. I’ll give the story credit for having a pretty solid ending due in no small part to the surprise cameo at the end from someone who should REALLY be in more movies, but by the time they show up it’s too late to save this half-assed story.
Even if the movie is a complete waste of time, it does manage to have some elements that keep it from being truly dreadful. The cast is strong across the board with Zach Galifinakis and Isla Fisher doing what they can with the crappy material they were given and the effort is greatly appreciated even if it can only do so much to polish this turd. Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are fine in their roles as well, and they actually manage to be at least somewhat interesting and have decent character arcs to boot. The fact that their characters are so much strong than the other two makes me wish that this was more a of a fish out of water story told from their perspective instead and having to drag these two idiots along for the ride. It may not have been a MUCH better movie as the plot is still weak and the gags run out of steam rather quickly, but more focus on them would have done a lot to keep this from turning into a slog.
There’s really no reason to see this movie… ever. It’s probably going to be the least interesting film on all these actors’ IMDb pages; neither crappy enough to keep them humble, or good enough to impress anyone. At least with the three who AREN’T Zach Galifianakis though, this will hopefully be an aberration rather than the trajectory for the rest of their careers; especially with Gal Gadot who’s got a lot of big things ahead of her. Good things? Maybe not, but being the first onscreen Wonder Woman is gonna keep her relevant for years to come. Zach Galifianakis on the other hand feels like he’s in a rut after only eight or so years after being propelled to A-List status, what with two underwhelming Hangover sequels under his belt and now two nearly indistinguishable films within a month of each other that no one cares about. Just forget that either of these films even happened and hope the guy finds some decent work soon. Maybe Gal Gadot can put a good word in for him and DC will hire him to play Condiment King in the Suicide Squad sequel!
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