‘Keeping Up With the Joneses’: Film Review

The latest comedy from Greg Mottola (‘Adventureland,’ ‘Superbad’) stars Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher as a married couple who suspect their new neighbors (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) of being spies.

Greg Mottola has made some fine contributions to big-screen comedy — including sweet-and-salty teen flicks Adventureland and Superbad — but his new film, Keeping Up With the Joneses, is decidedly not one of them.

Stale as week-old bread and every bit as bland, the movie saddles a strong cast with a groaningly ineffectual script (courtesy of Michael LeSieur, who wrote 2006’s You, Me and Dupree) and wastes the director’s gift for bringing lived-in charm and feeling to broad comic premises. It’s been obvious for a while now, but bears repeating: At a time when we’re spoiled with satisfyingly funny small-screen options, laugh-challenged multiplex fare like Keeping Up With the Joneses just doesn’t cut it. Why shell out 15 bucks for this junk if you can tune into the latest season of Black-ish, check out new gems like HBO’s Insecure, FX’s Better Things and Amazon’s Fleabag, or just google Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on SNL? Even by standards of low-IQ escapism, the film falls short. At least Masterminds, another recent goof-fest headlined by Keeping Up With the Joneses star Zach Galifianakis, gave the actor an epically awful pageboy hairdo to divert our attention from its disappointments.

Mottola’s movie wasn’t without potential. There’s an appealing quaintness to its story of a married couple who become convinced their glamorous neighbors are spies. Unlike most studio comedies these days, Keeping Up With the Joneses isn’t brashly vulgar, nor does it try, aside from a lame Caitlyn Jenner joke, to be zeitgeisty. The problem is that it doesn’t really try at all. Imagine Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery plus I Love You, Man, multiplied by Mr. & Mrs. Smith, divided by TV series The Americans. Minus all the wit, spark and deftness.

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