Monday, November 21, 2016

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Living the stereotypical suburban life, Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen (Isla Fisher) Gaffney distract themselves from their everyday routine by taking on hobbies such as brewing their own ale or remodeling the bathroom by adding a urinal. When perfect couple Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (Gal Gadot) Jones move in next door, the Gaffneys immediately get fixated on them and how ideal their marriage seems to be. Inviting them over for parties and bonding with them a bit, Karen soon suspects that there is something off with their new neighbors, although Jeff is quick to dismiss her distrust as something fueled by an odd mix of curiosity and jealousy. She keeps on spying on them anyway, until it is eventually revealed that the two are actually working as secret agents. But now that covers have been blown and secrets have been revealed, this ordinary couple’s otherwise boring existence is now going to take a turn for the adventurous, whether they like it or not.

I enjoyed this film. It made me laugh out loud despite the reservations I had about the obviously rehashed plot and abused predictability of almost every aspect of it. Or maybe the viewing experience just depends on your current mood? If you are simply looking for a brief distraction, mindless fun, or both, then this movie might work for you. But don’t take my word for it. Critique of the film, coming from both professionals and amateurs, has been unanimously unforgiving, denouncing it as a waste of money as well as the talent of its cast. Unfortunately, they are not saying that just to sound legit.

This is not the first of its subgenre to come out in the mainstream. There seems to be a sector of society to which these films cater, mainly that which consists of bored married couples who are looking for an adventure beyond their fixed daily reality. Everyone has a fantasy life that they would like to imagine for themselves, especially for suburban parents who have been forced to live each day in such locales, which can be as stable as it is mundane. I guess that’s why you’ll find that every TV show or film made with the suburbs as a setting has already contributed much to establishing a set of rules to follow to satisfy said audience. But these tropes have been used time and again so repetitively that they no longer give the moviegoing public something to look forward to.

There is a tendency for the Gaffneys to exaggerate everything that they do, and it’s supposed to be hilarious when you watch them panic. Don’t get me wrong, it WAS funny, for a while. And then you just get this notion that they are just repeating the technique ad nauseam. As for the Joneses, they are just there to be perfect. They look like one hell of an attractive couple. They kick ass, IN STYLE, driving around in expensive Mercedes cars whose main purpose in the storyline is to be shot at. The action scenes and chase sequence add a lot of much needed thrill to distract you from the loopholes, and the mere fact that I enjoyed it probably means that the gimmick worked well to their advantage.

Gadot is getting typecast in the Angelina Jolie roles, thanks to her star-making turn as Wonder Woman. There’s nothing bad about that. As they say, strike while the iron is hot, right? But she won’t be sexy and physically agile forever. Here’s hoping that she can also get a shot at career longevity later on, like fellow Israeli Natalie Portman. Hopefully, they can appear in a film together. That’d be nice! For now, just enjoy her chemistry with Isla Fisher, who is without a doubt the funnier of the two and not to be left behind when it comes to the sexiness factor.

As for the men, Galifianakis is the same old him, although his weight loss has been quite noticeable here. But it’s the same brand of humor that we have already seen in most of his other films. Hamm does what he can with the rather limited characterization on offer. It’s rather strange but also funny that he is somehow the heart of the quartet, a bit out of place for a super spy but really helped in humanizing him somehow.

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