Just another basic comedy
By David Lynch
Comedy is subjective. Creating a successful entry in the genre is as much of a gamble as anything in Hollywood.
You can come to a consensus about the quality of an actor’s performance, sure, or even how strongly a score impacts a movie’s tone. But you’ll never be able to convince a die-hard “Ace Ventura” fan that Will Ferrell is a funnier actor than Jim Carrey, or find widespread agreement that “Superbad” offers more laughs than “40-Year-Old Virgin.”
It’s inevitable, then, that some will think “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” in all its lazy and (to this critic) unfunny glory, is the greatest comedy ever created, ensuring that directors in the future know utilizing everything in the cliché playbook guarantees, at the very least, some filled seats in the theater.
Never mind comparing “Keeping Up with the Joneses” to, say, the works of Mel Brooks, who offered comedy that is simultaneously cutting social commentary while also remembering that there’s more to a film than “Joneses” provides.
Logic and emotion come to mind. Director Greg Mottola could have utilized either of those – or, really, any kind of substance – to create something memorable out of a film in which anyone can predict the major plot points.
I’ll give this to “Joneses”: the acting is tolerable – a couple notches above tolerable, in fact. Zach Galifianakis makes the best of what he’s given, Jon Hamm’s nuanced performance as a smooth but troubled spy is as enticing as it is seductive, and Isla Fisher’s bits are memorable for someone who hasn’t done much in the realm of comedy.
They work with what they have. Unfortunately, what they have isn’t very much, but I guess actors just need to make a paycheck every once in a while.
You’ve seen this movie before. Trust me. You’ve probably seen it in shortened SNL skit form, or otherwise read one of countless novels that utilize a similar premise.
So, should you see this film?
Let me put it this way: If just the thought of pairing up the charismatic and smooth Hamm with his contrast in Galifianakis for an action-comedy flick makes you chuckle … buy a ticket, for God’s sake, you’ll have a riot.
For those that need a movie to justify that pairing and what they’re truly capable of … rest assured, this isn’t it.
David Lynch is an award-winning film critic.