Film review: Keeping Up With the Joneses can’t keep up with the changing comedy trends

Keeping Up With the Joneses is just another case of funny people stuck in narrowly clichéd roles and an overly familiar story.

From left, Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher and Gal Gadot in Keeping Up With the Joneses. Bob Mahoney / Twentieth Century Fox via AP
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Keeping Up With the Joneses

Director: Greg Mottola

Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot

Two-and-a-half stars

The modern studio comedy increasingly feels limp, suffocated by the financial imperatives of high-concept plots.

Keeping Up With the Joneses is, like many before it, just about OK – but it mostly goes down as another case of funny people stuck in narrowly clichéd roles and an overly familiar story.

There has been perhaps no greater casualty of the constrictions of an increasingly blockbuster-centric Hollywood than comedy, and the freedom necessary for it to thrive is mostly found on television. Director Greg Mottola has worked on the big screen (Adventureland and Superbad) and TV (Arrested Development, Clear History), but Keeping Up With the Joneses, written by Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree) doesn't have much of the naturalism that distinguishes his best work.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play the Gaffneys, a suburbanite couple who have new neighbours, the Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, taking a break from her Wonder Woman duties), an impossibly stylish and accomplished couple.

That the Joneses are putting on a facade is evident from the start, but the movie cleverly subverts the nature of their secret identities.

They are elite spies, yet not so far removed from the normal squabbles and challenges of marriage.

The collision of international espionage thrills and suburban life is familiar territory by now, but the film has some moves of its own. Only Hamm creates a three-dimensional character: a 007 who secretly yearns to be a regular guy. But you get the feeling that everyone here could do better if they were really let loose. It seems a greater hero than Wonder Woman can save the studio comedy.

* Jake Coyle / Associated Press