Despite a stellar cast and a series of fairly promising trailers, ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’ once again fell into the realm of comedies with potential but little delivery. Of course, nowadays, to even get people into a theater, trailers have to include some of the best one-liners and zingy clapbacks from the film. However, there is a major problem if those included are some of the only funny parts of a film branded ‘comedy’.
Fortunately, Zach Galifianakis is able to pull off his boring HR guy Jeff Gaffney perfectly, and the result is funny moments – not from dialogue or even the scenario necessarily – that are completely the result of great acting. Roles like these come effortlessly to Galifianakis, and it pays off. The same cannot be said for Isla Fisher. Although she is also a great actress, the realm of comedy seems foreign to her throughout the film. She has some funny moments as Jeff’s wife Karen, but most of the time she appears to be trying much too hard for very little comedic payoff.
As the title characters Tim and Natalie Jones, played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, are exactly what you would expect, and perhaps more! Not only do they completely pull off the over-accomplished, enviable perfect couple, but they also balance the sense of discomfort that makes Karen suspicious enough to look into them with such intrigue that the audience cannot help but assume their lies and wrongdoings have to have some kind of reasonable explanation. They are just a couple you love to hate and hate to love.
The story itself was not very original – sort of a ‘Date Night’ meets ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ kind of vibe – but played out fairly well (although just as most people would have suspected). Jeff’s position in HR did make for unexpectedly personal moments with different characters; some were funny and others were touching, but it was a great choice of occupation for our main character, so kudos to the creative team on that.
It was great to see Jeff and Karen learn that there is more to life than what they experience in their cul-de-sac, but it was even better to see Tim and Natalie learn a little bit about each other and that communication and some of the less-exciting parts of life are necessary to have a truly happy marriage. It was nice to see that kind of believable growth in these characters.
It is a bit hard to believe that anyone could be as truly oblivious as the Gaffneys are, and that is something that does not change at all throughout the film. Of course, that was part of the comedy of it all, but even in the final few frames of the film, my dad turned to me in the theater and said, “Wow. They are as dumb as bricks.” He was not wrong about that. But for a moderately funny and fairly predictable film, it could have been much worse. You won’t regret seeing it, but you also won’t regret not.