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Movie Review: "Keeping Up with the Joneses"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Theatrical Release: 10/21/2016

Theatrical Release: 10/21/2016

Synopsis

Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) live a quiet, ordinary life in a cul-de-sac. Jeff works in Human Resources at a company that works on defense contracting. His job pays well, and has allowed the married couple to live a comfortable suburban lifestyle. Their lives are comfortable, but not extravagant and nothing exciting ever seems to happen, as there is no spontaneity in their marriage.

They know their neighbors well, all of whom have just as boring and comfortable lives as they do, but there is a new couple moving into the neighborhood. Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot) have just moved into the cul-de-sac, and have quickly drawn the attention of their neighbors. They drive really expensive cars, are in really good shape, and they are a married couple for which romance and spontaneity is still very much alive. Jeff and Karen are definitely jealous of their new neighbors, but they soon discover that the Joneses are actually government spies, as they end up finding themselves caught in the middle of the Joneses' mission.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Premise (+3pts)

The Action (-3pts)

The Cast (+5pts)

The Plot (-6pts)

The Comedy & The Wilhelm Scream (+3pts)

Gal Gadot's Character (-2pts)

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Pro: The Premise (+3pts)

This movie's premise was entertaining before the movie really started. It was supposed to be a silly comedy in which a mundane, suburban married couple cross paths with their new neighbors, who just so happen to be spies in the middle of a secret mission. The Gaffneys find themselves in the middle of a dangerous, chaotic mission, and the Joneses need to complete their objective while also keeping these two civilians out of harm's way. The premise would have worked a lot better if it had better comedy and a better plot behind it, but it was still able to make this movie somewhat entertaining. It was a silly premise and I enjoyed seeing how it would play out.

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Con: The Action (-3pts)

The action in this movie was nothing special and nothing you have not seen before. I liked that Zach Galifianakis and his humor were integrated into these action sequences. Unfortunately, this made Zach Galifianakis and his comedy shine, and it made the action feel pretty stale. I understand that the action was not the main focus of this movie, but it should have gotten more focus than it did.

If done right, the action and the comedy could have complemented each other really well. The comedy could have shined and the action could have been great. Unfortunately, it felt like the action was sacrificed in order to deliver comedy. The result was bland action that felt pretty hollow and unexciting.

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Pro: The Cast (+5pts)

One thing I liked about the movie that I did not expect to was the chemistry between the four main characters—Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. I thought Zach Galifianakis had great chemistry with Isla Fisher. This relationship could have felt very forced, but—thanks to the two actors in the roles—that was not the case. I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Zach Galifianakis and Jon Hamm's characters, as the two definitely formed a brotherly bond that was pretty entertaining to watch. Similarly, there were the scenes that Gal Gadot and Isla Fisher had together, which I thought worked really well as well. I thought the weakest relationship was the one between Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm. Do not get me wrong, they were okay, but I would have liked to have seen their relationship developed more than it was. The main cast in this movie was crucial in making this story believable, and these four actors made for a strong main cast.

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Con: The Plot (-6pts)

The plot in this movie was nothing special either. I realize that this was a comedy, so I should not have expected much from the plot, but that did not mean it should have been as weak as it was. The plot of Keeping Up with the Joneses was extremely predictable, and unoriginal, and it really did not need to be either. This was a comedy, so the plot did not need to carry the weight of this movie on its shoulders, but a strong plot certainly would not have hurt.

The movie had a silly premise, but it was also a spy movie. This balance could have made for a really entertaining and interesting movie—with a compelling spy plot, and plenty of comedy to complement it. Unfortunately, the filmmakers went with a really predictable and typical spy plot, which did not really deliver any surprises or shocking moments. This made for a plot that felt like it was going through the motions.

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Pro: Zach Galifianakis & The Wilhelm Scream (+3pts)

Keeping Up with the Joneses was not as funny as it could have—or should have—been. To put it simply, it was a chuckle-fest, but only if you are a fan of Zach Galifianakis. There were no hard laughs in the movie, but I chuckled a lot throughout. Although, it was only light laughter at best, and almost all of this came from Zach Galifianakis' one-line jokes. I think Galifianakis is an talented actor, especially when it comes to comedic performances. He did not save this movie entirely, but he made it moderately entertaining, which ultimately made it better than it would have been without him.

I do not know how many people reading this will know what the Wilhelm scream is, but it is a sound effect—of a man screaming in pain—that has been used in the movies for decades. It has been used hundreds of movies, including Star Wars and countless others. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go to YouTube and search "Wilhelm Scream". I am sure there are all sorts of compilation videos of it, and I guarantee you have seen many movies that have used it. It is such and amusing sound effect once you have heard it, as it becomes an amusing little easter egg to those who are familiar with the sound, and this movie was one such movie. While this is a very minor thing, and did not factor into my grade of this movie, I enjoyed hearing it and thought it was worth mentioning.

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Con: Gal Gadot's Character (-2pts)

It is important for me to distinguish Gal Gadot's character from her acting, as I thought her performance was fine in this movie. It was nothing crazy, but it was fine. Gal Gadot's character, however, was pretty inconsistent. In some scenes she was cold and not concerned for Jeff or Karen Gaffney. Yet, in other scenes—seemingly without reason—she was very caring for the civilian couple, and was willing to risk her life to save them. There were switches like this throughout the entire film. Sometimes she was selfless and caring, while other times she was cold and seemed to have no regard for the Gaffneys. Gal Gadot did fine in the role, but her character's level of compassion for the Gaffneys was notably inconsistent.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (75pts)

Keeping Up with the Joneses was lacking fresh action and a decent plot. Fortunately, Zach Galifianakis' comedy and having a cast with decent chemistry made up for the movie’s issues. The movie would not have worked for me if it were not for Zach Galifianakis so if you do not like his humor, then you should probably stay away from this movie—as I am sure you were planning to do. If you find Zach Galifianakis funny, then this movie will be a chuckle-fest for you.

The premise was a silly one, but the movie could have been really good if the filmmakers were able to balance good comedy with a decent spy movie plot. Unfortunately, the filmmakers focused on the comedy—which was only mildly amusing at its best—and delivered a bland plot with a lot of meaningless action. Then there was the character of Natalie, whose compassion was wildly inconsistent—so much so that it actually took me out of the movie on occasion. This movie was not exactly good, but it had its strengths, which made it a pretty average movie.