Keeping Up with the Joneses | Review

Suburban espionage comedy thriller directed by the guy who gave us SUPERBAD and PAUL plus starring four of Hollywood’s finest. What on Earth could go wrong? Suss out Kernel Jack’s review to find out. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is out now, apologies for my delay in posting, it came out a week before I thought it did #oops #mybad. It is out now from 20th Century Fox Australia, runs for 105mins and is rated M. Rock on……………JK.


I find the genre of comedy to be a rather curious one. Like everyone, I do love a good laugh. I want to go into a comedy and just have a blast with it, but frequently, especially with today’s films, I find a lot of them to be incredibly lazy. It’s a genre that seems to have more misses than it does hits, this year bringing with it disappointments such as MASTERMINDS, GRIMSBY, BAD NEIGHBOURS 2, MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES, DIRTY GRANDPA, HOW TO BE SINGLE and ALLEGIANT. I’m pretty sure ALLEGIANT was a comedy, at least.

When looking back at the comedies of 2016, or at least the ones that solely aim to be comedies as THE NICE GUYS is probably the funniest (and best) movie of the year, the only ones that really stand out are SAUSAGE PARTY, BRIDGET JONES’ BABY and CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE, and none of those are films I’d see myself rewatching. Now, we have KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES, and despite some truly awful early reviews, I… uh… didn’t actually hate this. I know, I’m surprised too.


Keeping Up with the Joneses Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis image



Karen (Isla Fisher) and Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) are a local, friendly suburban couple. They get along with almost everyone, never stirring up any trouble and busy being excellent parents to their two sons, who are currently away at a summer retreat. They’ve got the house all to themselves for the first time in a very long time, but things are about to get rather interesting when their new neighbours come moving on in. They’re Natalie (Gal Gadot) and Tim Jones (Jon Hamm), and they’re about as perfect as a couple can be. One may argue that they’re a little too perfect.

Natalie and Tim are settling down great, getting along with everyone in the neighbourhood, particularly Jeff, but Karen is starting to see through them. She’s suspicious, even if nobody else believes her, including and especially Jeff. But hey, would you believe me if I told you Karen was right? Because, as it turns out, the Joneses aren’t really the perfect couple next door. They’re international spies, and they’re going to need Jeff and Karen’s help if they want to complete their top secret, highly dangerous mission that involves espionage, rockets and a mysterious, unknown villain who goes by the name of Scorpion.


Keeping Up with the Joneses John Hamm and Gal Gadot image



I know it’s hard to believe, but I did actually enjoy this movie. I’m not lying to you. The low expectations may have helped, but KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES was a pleasant surprise. It’s a short, fun little movie that isn’t trying to push boundaries or insult anyone. It plays everything safe, never being too crude or ridiculous. The jokes are definitely hit and miss, but for me, and the audience I saw it with at the screening, they hit more times than they missed. It tried to get me to laugh, and it worked, so that’s all it really needed to do.

Nothing about this film is all that original, even the characters are ones we’ve seen a thousand times over, but the film is kept from harm in its little bundle of security, and it tries to make its generic plot as fun and entertaining as possible. There’s not any single moment that had me thinking ‘that’s what this film is going to be remembered for,’ because to be honest, this isn’t a film people are going to remember. Nothing about it is remotely unique, and it’ll probably be forgotten in the grains of time a few years down the road, but it’s a happy, charming movie that’s just fun to watch.


Keeping Up with the Joneses Zach Galifianakis and John Hamm image



Good casts don’t necessarily make for good movies, but it does get butts in seats, and the cast for this movie certainly had me intrigued. The four main players are all admirable. Two-dimensional and clichéd, but also rather admirable. Zach Galifianakis is a hilarious, brilliant comedic talent, even with a mixed bag of films. While I initially walked out of the screening describing Jon Hamm as being the best part of film, after sitting on it, I do believe that title should go to Galifianakis. His style of humour worked best for this movie, and he definitely got the biggest laughs, but that’s not to say Hamm doesn’t either, as I also quite liked him in this role.

Australian actress Isla Fisher also does really well. She’s just as funny and energetic as always, and has more than a few moments to shine. Gal Gadot, on the other hand, I really wanted to love. I really wanted her to be great, but she ends up being merely okay. She’s not necessarily bad, but she’s definitely the weakest link when it comes to the four protagonists. None of her jokes stood out for me, and I found that disappointing. I want to say that she’s better than this, but when scrolling through her IMDb filmography and remembering the other films that she’s done, I’m not too sure about that.


Keeping Up with the Joneses Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis image



I wasn’t really sold on this movie after having seen the trailer, but the fact that Greg Mottola directed it did create some curiosity. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Mottola is the director behind SUPERBAD, ADVENTURELAND and PAUL. I have an unholy love affair with PAUL, and have seen it numerous times. That film works on so many levels, and I love it. I actually only saw SUPERBAD for the first time this year, but I loved that one too. ADVENTURELAND was a movie I’d heard a lot of positive buzz around, but when I saw it, I was greatly disappointed. Despite a terrific cast, I didn’t enjoy it too much, although I do feel like I should try and watch it again to see if I still feel that way, as it has been a while.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES isn’t nearly on the same level as SUPERBAD or PAUL, and many would say it’s not on the same level as ADVENTURELAND either, and they’re technically not wrong. Mottola has turned it down a notch this time around, crafting a very poorly made movie with nothing special whatsoever. It feels almost lazy, every shot being incredibly bland. Sure, I enjoyed this movie for what it was, but if we strip back the humour and look at everything inside, none of it is really that great. It’s all just sort of there, and it feels as though almost anyone could’ve made this movie and it would’ve turned out exactly the same.


It’s difficult to comprehend, and the strongly negative reviews are a convincing argument against my opinion, but by some strange miracle, I actually found enjoyment in this movie. It’s by no stretch of the imagination a well made movie, and nothing about the plot is fresh or unpredictable, but the cast (for the most part) are good at what they do, and it does make for a surprisingly funny movie, even with a lot of jokes that just fall flat on their faces.


3 Pops




When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages, and has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.