'Keeping Up With the Joneses' Review: It's Like 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' With a Laugh Track
By John Boone
Photo: 20th Century Fox
Keeping Up With the Joneses is the type of movie that makes for a great trailer, or at least a decent one. Chopped up and pieced back together, it's chock full of LOL! and OMG! moments, zingers and pratfalls and explosions and Gal Gadot in her underwear!
It makes for an enjoyable two-and-a-half minutes. It's also the best parts of the movies and that's not a hyperbole: The funniest joke in all of Joneses is when Zach Galifianakis says he is "making a head start" and Isla Fisher cries, "On your wife?!" Watching the trailer gets the gist across and saves you 90 or so minutes.
In truth, there's something clever about the idea of spies moving to the suburbs and being spied on by their neighbor, but in the hands of Greg Mottola (who directed the subversive Suberbad and underrated Adventureland), Joneses plays to the back of the theater, offering up easy jokes that maybe would have gotten a laugh six months ago. Such is the risk you're taking when you try to fit a Caitlyn Jenner joke into your movie. (The Galifianakis character had a "man crush" on Bruce, to which he quips, "She likes to be called Caitlyn!")
The basic plot -- and the plot is basic -- centers on Jeff Gaffney (Galifianakis), who works in HR and has a "Keep Calm and Go to Your Safe Space" poster. He's clueless and pathetic and incompetent(ish). His wife Karen (Fisher) is an interior designer who stress-eats ice cream out of the carton. That's the caricature-ization of the suburbs as a whole in the film, where the men are emasculated and the women are overbearing and everyone is kind of racist.
Har har, the movie repeatedly laughs at itself. Aren't the suburbs stupid?
That is, until Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gadot) move across the street. They're beautiful and well dressed and kiss each other on the lips and probably-- jeepers! -- have sex. They're also secret agents and their mission is to sniff out which employee at Jeff's top-secret tech company is selling secrets to terrorists, thus betraying both country and cul-de-sac.
Hamm once again proves he's suited to play both charmingly suave and utterly goofy, and Gadot is as badass as she was in Batman v Superman and surely will be in Wonder Woman. Fisher, bless her heart, is game for anything and gives her all to the part as it's written. There's also a fun little reveal regarding the film's big bad, who also has the most relatable motivation for his big badness ever. I won't spoil either here.
In the end, Keeping Up With the Joneses is not as sexy as Mr. & Mrs. Smith or as smart as Spy. It's no We're the Millers either, which isn't about spies but exists in the wheelhouse. It's the sitcom version of one of the above, all the interesting edges filed down and fit for a laugh track. It's a good trailer. It's not a great film.