Keeping Up with the Joneses
Time Out says
Some of Hollywood's wildest talents are wasted on an espionage comedy that doesn't know how to cut loose.
Structured with the kind of obviousness that makes you outwit the screenwriter and then hate movies in general, Greg Mottola’s painfully generic suburban spy comedy wastes everybody’s time, onscreen and off. Stuck-in-a-rut marrieds Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen (Isla Fisher) can’t help but ogle their newly arrived cul-de-sac neighbors, Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (inert Wonder Woman Gal Gadot). From afar, they seem like a commercial for sex, success and regular visits to the dentist; in person, it’s even worse. He’s a fascinating travel writer who speaks Chinese; she runs a cooking website and saves orphans. Of course they’re undercover agents.
Before we hit the motorcycle chases and awkward backyard barbecues, there’s hope that Galifianakis and Fisher, who can both cut loose with magnificent klutziness (not here), will turn out to be the secretly capable ones. Manage expectations. Better yet, just get rid of them altogether. Instead, we get to see a live snake chopped up for an exotic lunch—it’s a digital effect, but a misguided one—and that old chestnut of jumping from a hotel room into a swimming pool below. That’s actually the climax of the film. Mottola has made some brilliantly idiosyncratic pictures: Superbad, Adventureland, The Daytrippers. But as Joneses’s director for hire, he’s allowed zero personality. Let’s hope he chalks this misfire up to a passing case of Bourne-like amnesia.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew