By BabyRuthCT (Three Beers) –
Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen (Isla Fisher) Gaffney are a nice couple who live in a nice home on a nice cul-de-sac in an Atlanta suburb. They’ve just sent their two nice young sons off to summer camp and are excited to have the house to themselves because, you know… they could finally catch up on their favorite shows! Yeah, they might be in a bit of a rut. But it’s a nice rut.
Enter new neighbors Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot): sophisticated, mysterious, and both ridiculously attractive – I mean they look like freaking Don Draper and the new Wonder Woman! Both have very glamorous jobs too. Tim’s a travel writer who’s been to places so exotic you’ve never heard of them, while Natalie is a social media consultant who still finds time to run her own cooking blog and children’s charity. These people just seem too perfect to be real!
Karen sure thinks something is up with them, especially after learning the couple purchased their new home with cash and without even seeing it in person. Unable to contain her curiosity, she decides to investigate.
Jeff, a Human Resources manager with a self-proclaimed “gift” for reading people, thinks that’s all a whole lot of hooey and is more interested in BFFing Tim – finally someone to go indoor skydiving with! Because of course the suave world traveler would want to hang out with someone like Jeff. Especially someone like Jeff who happens to work at an aerospace defense firm that specializes in top-secret technology!
Once the truth is uncovered, Jeff and Karen soon find themselves caught up in the dangerous world of international espionage.
Considering the screenplay was written by the same guy who wrote You, Me, and Dupree, the end result is way better than I would have anticipated. This is largely due to the brilliant cast.
It’s a little weird at first to see the usually in-your-face Zach Galifianakis in an everyman kind of role usually reserved for someone like, say, Jason Bateman. He does get in some of his trademark physical comedy during a bizarre and hilarious scene in an underground Chinese snake restaurant (this film is not recommended for those who suffer from ophiophobia), but for the most part, he’s pretty subdued compared to most of his other characters. And it’s refreshing.
Many of the funniest scenes involve Galifianakis and Hamm playing off each other. Their longtime real-life friendship is evident as the two have a natural rhythm and it’s as much fun to watch them as it likely was for them while making the movie.
Though her character is serious and seductive for the most part, Gal Gadot gets to show off some comedic chops.
Along with other stuff.
The standout here, though, is the tragically underrated Isla Fisher. Can someone please give her a starring role in a movie worthy of her talent? Or at least a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live to show those who may not be aware that she is a gifted comedienne and not just “Not Amy Adams? and/or “Borat’s wife?” Keep your eye on her every time she is onscreen. She’s hilarious.
All four leads bounce off each other perfectly when paired off, and especially when they’re all onscreen at the same time.
I’ll raise another toast to a pretty impressive action sequence halfway through the movie. It’s rare and pleasantly surprising to see something of this caliber in a comedy.
Director Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad) plays it conventional, if generic, though wisely focuses on the likeable foursome. There’s also an unexpected touch of heart as each couple learns things about their relationship.
And, between writing this review and Masterminds a couple of weeks ago, I’ve now learned how to spell Galifianakis on my own, so yay me!
As you may have expected, the plot is predictable as hell. There’s never any real sense of danger or suspense. The only surprise is the late reveal of the bad guy “Scorpion” (don’t spoil it for yourself), which got a pretty big laugh at my screening.
The movie takes a while to get going. Karen’s sleuthing attempts are amusing, as are Jeff and Tim’s bonding moments, but because the audience already knows the truth about the Joneses, the cringe-humor gets a little tiring while waiting for each couple to figure out the other.
Definitely not the worst thing you can watch that begins with “Keeping Up with the…” (shoutout to Felix Felicis!) The perfect, game cast and some surprising action set pieces make up for the predictable plot, making this an entertaining, if ultimately forgettable way to pass 105 minutes.
Keeping Up With the Joneses (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “spy” or “spies”
Take a Drink: every time someone falls
Take a Drink: whenever a stress ball appears on screen
Take a Drink: anytime someone says “cul-de-sac”
Take a Drink: whenever a character wears lingerie
Take as Many Drinks as You Need: during the snake-eating scene
Do a Shot: for every (really cool) explosion