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Keeping Up With The Joneses

Year: 2017
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Greg Mottola
Writer: Michael LaSieur
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot, Jon Hamm, Patton Oswalt, Kevin Dunn

This movie is proof of one of two assumptions. One, actors are often the worst people to pick projects. Second, they can sign onto movies with a completely hatstand script just hoping the director makes something special out of it.

Greg Mottola, who's from the same stable as Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, makes films that rely on characters and performances rather than action or effects. Sometimes it works great, like it did in Superbad, and sometimes it results in a corporate-flavoured comedy that seems spat right off a studio production line, like it did in Paul.

Despite having attracted some big names, Keeping Up With The Jonses is the latter, an overlong sitcom episode that relies on shtick and falls far short of the potential in the talent on screen.

Not that you expect Oscar worthy work from Gal Gadot (who hasn't done anything so far but look pretty and swing weapons) or Zach Galifianakis (who's played the same character in every movie apart from Birdman), but Isla Fisher is a very accomplished comic actress and Jon Hamm has the cachet of one of the most beloved characters on TV thanks to Mad Men.

Jeff (Galifianakis) and Karen (Fisher) are a boring suburban couple who love each other perfectly enough and don't want any excitement in their lives, but that all changes when a svelte, exotic couple move in next door. Tim (Hamm) and Natalie (Gadot) are everything Jeff and Karen aren't – sexy, fun-loving, adventurous, well-travelled and seemingly harbouring some dark secrets.

After a bit of Hollywood comedy plotting 101 Karen becomes convinced Tim and Natalie have something to hide, and when it turns out the pair are high level CIA spies and she fails to leave well enough alone, she gets herself and Jeff caught up in the case Tim and Natalie are working to bring down an international arms dealer.

Cue every gag you expect about a boring suburban couple discovering the illicit thrill of danger and intrigue, the skills and talents they (and the audience) thought were dull actually saving the day, and the hot couple realising in the final scenes there's something to be said for stability and settling down. You'll not only know everything that happens before it does as the story progresses, you'll have a good idea of how it's going to unfold just from knowing the premise.

That leaves the movie to rise and fall on the charisma and chemistry of the actors and the stature of the comedy, none of which are any better than middling TV quality.

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