Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) lives are interrupted by the arrival of new neighbors, whose stunning looks are matched only by the worldly sophistication of their lives. Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) is an accomplished travel writer whose hobbies include blowing glass, and his wife, Natalie (Gal Gadot), is a social media consultant, cooking blogger and heroine to Sri Lankan orphans. The Gaffneys soon find themselves in the center of a storm of international espionage that gives them a breathtaking glimpse of life outside their cul-de-sac.
Zach Galifianakis is a hit or miss actor with his last few films with the last being a miss with Masterminds. It isn’t necessarily his fault, however, as it isn’t because he’s a bad actor, it’s that the material doesn’t always match up with his ability. Now here’s a better effort in Keeping Up With the Joneses with an albeit different character than Masterminds.
Here he plays Jeff Gaffney who along with his wife Karen (Fisher) have their lives turned upside down after meeting their new neighbors, Tim (Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gadot). The Joneses both appear overly accomplished but things aren’t quite what they seem, as all the trailers gave away. The difference between Jeff and Karen was that Karen always thought that something was suspicious with her new neighbors but Jeff did not see it as he quickly formed a bond with Tim. As evidence became overwhelming, Jeff and Karen had to find the truth for themselves, this began a chain of events leading the Gaffney’s inadvertently joining the Joneses in their secret mission. All of this should not come as much of a surprise as the bulk of the plot was given away in the film’s many trailers.
Since most of the film has already been given away, the story was rather predictable and the comedy did not have the same impact, having heard a lot of it before. Despite that, some of the comedy still worked and would have worked better if some of the bits from the trailers actually made it into the film. Some aspects were still fun to watch, like Jeff at work in the HR department, Karen’s spying, and just the contrast between the Gaffney’s and the Joneses.
Jeff was a caring, understanding, yet stupid and gullible man that people kept taking advantage of. His obliviousness to the true intentions of those around him was often funny to watch. Karen was just as eccentric as Jeff but more under control. Her life was in a rut so seeing another happy couple kind of pushed her over the edge. The lengths that she would go because of her sheer paranoia was funny as well. As good as they were apart, they were even better together since their chemistry made their relationship believable and fun.
This relationship, contrasted with the Joneses, was great to watch, seeing their suburban normalness tested by these extraordinary secret agents. They couldn’t seem to handle anything that was happening and their reactions were hilarious. Seeing Jeff and Tim bond was fun to watch. Karen and Natalie weren’t given as much of a chance but their scene, also mostly shown in the trailers, was fun. Tim and Natalie were supposed to be these perfect people but this partially worked against them as their relationship was not as believable and did not have as good a chemistry as Jeff and Karen. However, the chemistry between all four was excellent.
The acting was good from everyone, with Galifianakis being good as the lovable idiot, a role he’s very familiar with, Fisher as the bumbly, supportive housewife, Hamm as the manly, deep agent, and Gadot, keeping up with the others as the female equivalent of Hamm’s Tim Jones. Hamm and Gadot handle themselves admirably with the film’s action but isn’t mind blowing as it has been done better in many other films.
Overall, this was a decent, albeit derivative, action-comedy with decent performances but all the good parts were already given away in the trailers.