The Gaffneys love their neighbourhood. It has everything that they cherish in life: friends, family and safety. All of the residents of this close-knit community seem to know each others business and when someone new moves into one of the picturesque houses, a subtle and neighbourly investigation begins. One of the homes in this grand circle sells to the picture perfect couple, Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot). They are beautiful, accomplished and mysterious, which makes them the envy of many on the street and everyone wants to know their story. Then something makes Karen and Zach Gaffney (Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis) suspicious of the Joneses and they do all they can to discover what the newest residents on the culdesac are hiding. Relying on their less than effective sleuth skills they discover that the Joneses are really government agents. These secret operatives come to share that their motives are to investigate the Gaffneys for corporate espionage, but find that they were misguided. This truth leads the two couples to work together to find the actual perpetrators and this is when the hilarity ensues.
With Superbad’s director Greg Mottola, overseeing this crazy caper and with these well cast couples, Keeping Up with the Joneses has the potential to be comedic gold. The challenge for Mottola was stepping out of his comfort zone with this film which is less Superbad and more Modern Family. Sadly, without excessive language and adult content in his arsenal of humour and gags, the film turns into a mainstream comedy without much soul.
The ‘spy as your neighbour’ concept is not without some merit, especially when it comes to the casting. Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot prove they can play up the comedy as well as prove to be worthy action heroes. Gadot will continue to show these skills in the new Wonder Woman film, but as Natalie Jones, she shows that she does have the ability to handle witty banter alongside her government issue pistol. Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) continues to fill the role of the bumbling fool with heart, but the real stand out was Isla Fisher. She is an under-utilised comedienne who validates that she is a force in the realm of comedy. This party of four are well suited for their roles, but even with their thespian skills, they cannot make up for the poorly executed storyline. Proving that good performers are only as good as the lines that they are given to deliver.
This action comedy does tap into an underlying need that people have to belong to a community. This is where the best of many of the modern comedies sit. It shows that for the jokes to hit their mark, they do it best when they touch on some of the realities of life. The desire for friendships, rekindling the spark in marriage or thinking that everyone else’s life is more exciting than your own provide glimmers of magic in this outing in amongst the mundane. This is when Mottola does get things right, but unfortunately these moments come too infrequently to garner many accolades. Keeping Up with the Joneses eventually could be compared to the lollies purchased before the film: sweet, fun, but ultimately forgettable and lacking in any real substantive value.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Why do we envy others? The title of the film addresses this issue before even walking into the cinema. There is something about looking at other people’s lives and wishing that it belonged to you that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. Most people will tell you it is a less than satisfying journey to strive after what others have in life. Yet, we still do it. Where are some of the answers to this quandary?
Passages from the Bible that on show where to satisfaction with your life: Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:15, Philippians 4:11-12, Hebrews 13:5,