KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES, US, 2016. Starring Zach Galifiniakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gaddo, Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh, Maribeth Munroe. Directed by Greg Mottola. 105 minutes. Rated M (Violence, Coarse Language).
This is an entertaining suburban story, not particularly demanding, with some amusing characters, comic situations – and some suburban espionage in Atlanta, Georgia.
It is the Gaffneys, Karen and Jeff, who are the couple who have to keep up with the Joneses. He is played by Zach Galifiniakis, proving in 2016 to be an entertaining comic performer, here and in Masterminds, more restrained than in his Hangover days. She is played by Isla Fisher (who is married to Sacha Baron Cohen which should keep her in training for offbeat comedy). They see their two sons of to summer camp and decide to enjoy the time off – with a humorous imagining of sexcapades but settling down with some snacks to watch The Good Wife.
Jeff works at a highly specialised industrial centre in Human Resources and we are treated to a collage of some funny, seemingly inept, attempts to settle disputes. He is a kindly man, even allowing workmates to come in to use his computer for contacts that are forbidden by the company. Meanwhile, Karen is an interior designer and their neighbours have decided that they want a Brooklyn-style urinal installed in their house and she has to be creative about it.
But Karen is distracted because, across the street, a new couple move in, the Joneses. He is played by Jon Hamm (partly answering the question about what does Jon Hamm do after 92 episodes of Madcap men), Tim Jones and Gal Gaddo (the Israeli actress who has already been seen as Wonder Woman in Batman versus Superman and will soon have her own film, and is definitely suited to the part) is Natalie Jones.
The trouble is that Jeff is benign and accepts the invitation by Tim to go to a Chinese restaurant, specialising in snakes, so that Tim can loosen him up and pump him for information about the company and the workers. Karen is more assertive, following Natalie, seeing her make a drop, and exposed, in more ways than one, when she is caught by Natalie trying out lingerie.
Actually, it is not hard to see where the plot is continually taking us, to see whether the Joneses are the good guys or the bad guys, sinister motorbike pursuits, dangerous car ride (with Karen getting a phone call from the two boys at camp about cookies) and Jeff having to get out onto the back of the car to remove a dynamite pack that the enemy has tossed there!
We might be a bit surprised at who the villains are, selling the secrets, but it is all given a suburban and employment explanation. And as for the climax, the lavish hotel in Atlanta receives a huge boost as being the scene of some mayhem as the Gaffneys act as decoys to ferret out the archvillain, Patton Oswalt in an enjoyable comic performance as well.
There are some humorous writing and performances which will while away a pleasantly and demanding hour and a half.
Fox Released 20th October
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.