Keeping Up with the Jones is one of those films that I liked to call a Premise Movie. It has a great set-up, then proceeded to spend the rest of its runtime sitting around and not doing anything interesting with it. A more daring script would’ve addressed how suburbia can lead to boredom and losing your identity, but instead we’re treated to a simple heist film that doesn’t really resolve any conflict that it sets up.

    The Gaffneys (Zach Galifinakis and Isla Fisher) are the suburban couple that was long defined back in the 1950s. They’re good citizens, dedicated to each other and their jobs.  He works in the HR department of a defense company, and is frequently marginalized by others that use his computer (one of the few amusing moments). She’s a housewife that either designs houses or toilets; that’s a half-joke the film didn’t really clear up.

    But they’re questioning the monotony of their lives, which gets worse when the Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) move in next door. They befriend them at first, but question their motives which, being a movie that needs a conflict, ultimately prove correct. But they come to their conclusions a little to cleanly and easily, and for a couple of guarded spies, the Joneses sure let a couple of nosy neighbors into their lives very quickly. (If I was a spy with deadly accuracy with a dart, I don’t think I’d show that off at a barbecue).

    The direction is professional and all the Galifinakis, Hamm and Fisher all do a great job with their characters. Gadot is the one weak spot, with her dialogue frequently sounding wooden, but she’s lucky that the character was probably written as a cold, unemotional woman (The film throws in the detail that she’s apart of the Israeli defense force, which Gadot actually was). All four learn of a shady arms dealer that needs to be taken down, and the Gaffney’s must act like dangerous spies, which in turn species up their marriage.

    As I’m typing this, I realize I’ve actually seen this movie twice this year; the first time it was called Central Intelligence. Quite frankly, that take on it was a lot funnier and actually used an espionage adventure as a means to question the lives of the boring people dragged through it. By the end of it, Kevin Hart’s character actually abandoned his boring office job and joined the CIA. It wasn’t Oscar-level filmmaking, but it set the characters up and told a story with them.

    Here? There’s a bored married couple and half of a bored spy couple (Hamm’s character), and they both end up staying that way. The ending is a cop out that doesn’t resolve anything, which probably is why I walked out of this with an overall feeling of blah. (Correction: My girlfriend saw this with me, so I was still happy. Just thought I’d clear that up.) It’s a serviceable, vaguely family friendly (minus some violence) movie that gets it done with no frills.

    The poster for this movie says “License to Kill, License To Chill”, which suggests something far more dangerous with comedy that’s far more biting. Neither of those happen here, so you’re just left with the definition of mediocrity.

Published by Jagger Czajka