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Movies

Spy Game: Keeping Up With the Joneses Doesn’t Take Much Effort

In this uninspired suburban satire, you keep waiting for something, anything, significant to happen contrary to expectations, but it never does.

As an espionage thriller, it’s not very exciting. As a broad comedy, it’s not very funny. And the whole thing is so predictable that Keeping Up With the Joneses doesn’t prove to be very difficult at all.

Indeed, in this uninspired suburban satire, you keep waiting for something, anything, significant to happen contrary to expectations, but it never does.

The film takes place in an Atlanta cul-de-sac, where Jeff (Zach Galifianakis), the human resources director at a local high-tech firm, and his wife, Karen (Isla Fisher), have just shipped their two kids off to summer camp.

They become fascinated with the new couple on the block — Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (Gal Gadot) — because they’re sophisticated and cool. While Jeff starts fawning over Tim in a quest for approval, Karen becomes suspicious about his background. And sure enough, the Joneses are in fact spies who have moved in under false pretenses. But are they friends or foes?

Before long, there goes the neighborhood, as Jeff and Karen are thrust into the role of reluctant action heroes navigating a series of shootouts, chases and explosions.

Galifianakis is an odd fit as the lead, even if he’s in familiar territory playing a bumbling social misfit who’s relentlessly optimistic if totally oblivious. The film tries to position him as a lovable loser, but in reality, his shtick becomes tired and obnoxious.

The screenplay by Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree) is too detached from reality, featuring characters that conveniently lack common sense in order to drive the plot. The sight gags and one-liners provide some scattered laughs along the way, but most of the jokes are lazy and generic.

Most of the collaborators on both sides of the camera have done better work elsewhere, including director Greg Mottola (Superbad). The ensemble cast, much as they try, can’t elevate the lackluster material. Then the final act bogs down in a convoluted plot about arms dealers and stolen microchips.

Keeping Up With the Joneses tries so hard to perpetuate its sitcom-style mayhem that it forgets about basic narrative coherence and comedic timing. The result might make moviegoers just want to pack up and move.

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