Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 105 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This comedy about nosy neighbors who end up entangled in a spy plot with the perfect couple next door includes a variety of humor, including gross bathroom humor, jokes about torture, and characters getting drunk and acting ridiculous; a variety of sexually themed content, including some implied sex scenes and women wearing revealing lingerie; some cursing; and a variety of violence, including shootouts, car chases, poison darts, and a sequence with a venomous snake. Also some vaguely xenophobic jokes sprinkled throughout.
‘Keeping Up With the Joneses’ is a low-stakes comedy that will win you over with its familiar charms. The cast’s commitment to this zaniness makes the story of suburban spycraft more enjoyable than you would initially expect.
By Roxana Hadadi
It’s not that the comedy “Keeping Up With the Joneses” does anything particularly new—but it does the same old stuff quite well. Unlikely bromances, exaggerated female competition, and suburban boredom are topics often mined in today’s comedies, and “Keeping Up With the Joneses” taps into those same ideas. But the film’s cast is so committed to this zaniness, including the genuinely vibing Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis, that “Keeping Up With the Joneses” will keep you laughing despite the familiarity.
Set in the kind of lily-white, upper-middle-class version of Atlanta that also appeared in the atrocious “Mother’s Day,” “Keeping Up With the Joneses” focuses on the married Jeff (Galifianakis, of “Muppets Most Wanted”) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher, of “Now You See Me”), who seem like your ideal suburban couple. He is in HR at a tech company that does heavily classified aerospace work for the government; she is an interior designer; and they have the house to themselves after sending their two boys off to camp.
But instead of a wild time together, they end up obsessed with their next-door neighbors, the newly moved-in and seemingly perfect Tim (Hamm, of “Minions”) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot, of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”). They’re gorgeous and accomplished (he’s a travel writer who oozes charisma; she’s a food blogger and human rights activist) and while Jeff strikes up a friendship with Tim, Karen thinks something strange is going on—and she’s proved right when Tim and Natalie end up being spies.
What is Tim and Natalie’s mission, though, and why are they undercover in this seemingly sleepy cul de sac? As Jeff and Karen become more entangled with them, certain truths are revealed—both about Jeff and Karen’s marriage, and about Tim and Natalie’s—that may end up changing all four of their lives.
The commercials for “Keeping Up With the Joneses” give a lot of the story away, but there are still hidden gems throughout in the brisk-feeling 105-minute runtime. Galifianakis taps into the earnest, do-gooder version of himself from “The Campaign” and has great chemistry with Hamm, whose Tim needs a sympathetic ear regarding his career doubts. A moment of honesty between them in the back of a shady Chinese restaurant is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. You understand why these two would get along, and it’s a delight to see Hamm back onscreen again—he’s charming, handsome, and perfectly cast.
On the flip side is Fisher, who leans into her wild side as Karen; her discomfort when Gadot coolly stares her down in a lingerie dressing room is an emotion we’ll all feel. And that’s the nice thing about “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” really—that it successfully makes you empathize both with the gorgeous spies whom you can’t fully trust and the average suburbanites you may not want to admit you are. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but it’s amusing and it’s low-impact, and makes “Keeping Up With the Joneses” worth watching.
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