October 19, 2016
Last month, North Carolina’s own Zach Galifianakis went to the theatrical plate with the comedy swing-and-miss, Masterminds. A few short weeks later, Zach is back. And this time the result is… a stand-up triple and very nearly an in-the-park homerun!
Like Central Intelligence, my other favorite recent comedy, the plot of Keeping Up with the Joneses is satisfyingly uncomplicated. Galifianakis and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) are the Kevin Hart side of the equation: suburban parents stuck in a boring routine– she designs ultra modern bathrooms and he works in human resources (instantly becoming the funniest HR person in the world, right?) for a major tech company. Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Gal Gadot (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), as their new neighbors/covert government spies who lead thrillingly unpredictable and exotic lives, are the Dwayne Johnson counterpart.
When the two couples start hanging out, the Mr. & Mrs. Smith-ish Joneses rope the unsuspecting, straight-laced Gaffneys into an espionage plot that, honestly, doesn’t matter. And trust me, you really don’t want it to!
Director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Paul) is incredibly adept at structuring a simple narrative in a way that the focus can be totally centered on and carried by the wittiness of the dialogue and the chemistry between the actors.
Galifianakis’ performance is far superior than his previous in Masterminds with some great subtleties to go along with the side-splitting physical gags. The ever-impressive Isla Fisher likewise delivers a multifaceted turn that’s equal parts cutesy and smart. Gal Gadot isn’t blessed with nearly as many funny lines as her co-stars but she gets to carry the weight of the action sequences, which actually are pretty decent, and she is spectacular at them (see the sweet dart trick at a cookout for an example).
The hands-down MVP, however, is Jon Hamm. His man-crush with Galifianakis’ character is the backbone (er, funny bone?) of the film and, though Hamm has displayed flashes of his comedy chops before, they were nothing compared to this. He has an amazing deadpan ability to deliver both facetiousness and jokes alike with dual hilarity, and in an effortless way that doesn’t even feel like he’s trying to be funny.
In fact that’s sort of the way the entire movie is. Whereas Masterminds couldn’t figure out exactly what it wanted to be, Keeping Up with the Joneses owns its role as a simplistic action-comedy and just let’s the players confidently do their thing, trusting that the laughs will come naturally, which they do. And while predictable at times, there’s also a certain satisfaction as a moviegoer to thinking “oh, what if [this] happens?” and when it actually does, followed by a theater full of laughter, it confirms to your inner self that you are indeed as funny as you think you are.
I gave Central Intelligence 3¾ stars, and I can’t in good conscience rate Joneses higher than that but it’s certainly in the same ballpark, so…
Star Rating: 3¾ out of 5 stars
Read next article: