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Review: You might want to keep away from 'Keeping Up With the Joneses'

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(20th Century Fox) "Keeping Up with the Joneses" stars Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher and Jon Hamm.

Everyone gets excited to meet their new neighbors. Maybe you get along with them, maybe you become best friends or maybe they turn out to be highly trained, lethal secret agents. The third option occupies the plot of the new action comedy film “Keeping Up with the Joneses.”

The film stars Zach Galifianakis andIsla Fisher as Jeff and Karen Gaffney, a perfectly normal, everyday married couple whose lives have become boring and mundane as of late. Their lives turn upside down when Tim and Natalie Jones,played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, move in next door.

The Joneses represent the epitome of married life—they appear to be attractive, successful, smart and happy.

Before long, the Gaffneys begin to suspect that the Joneses may not be exactly who they say, and a trip inside the Jones household reveals this as correct. They are not just a perfect couple, they are also secret agents on a mission to find which one of Jeff’s co-workers has been committing treason against the U.S.

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The film combines this lackluster plot with equally lackluster acting and completely two-dimensional characters that do not feel in the slightest bit fleshed out. The dialogue feels forced and neither the Joneses nor the Gaffneys have any real on screen chemistry to speak of. The less than subpar acting is forgivable on behalf of most of these actors because they have no real acting accolades to speak of, and therefore no acting standard to fulfill.

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However, Hamm does not at all fit into that unfortunate category. Hamm proved himself as one of the greatest actors working today when he played Don Draper on the brilliant AMC series “Mad Men,” so why on earth he chose to do a film like this remains a mystery. It looks like Hamm’s post-"Mad Men” days are not looking so good.

This film functions primarily as a comedy, and while some of the jokes land, the majority do not. Then the filmmakers throw in some awkward car chase scenes, poorly written dialogue and forced relationships between characters and then hey, you’ve got a movie. Not a great one, but a movie nonetheless.

It was nice to see Galifianakis in a not completely ridiculous role for once. He always plays losers of some kind, but his characters normally have ridiculous, eccentric or obnoxious qualities that make them occasionally unwatchable.

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With this film, he plays a simple, down to earth guy who works in human resources, so even though his performance does not come across as funny or even particularly interesting, at least he is watchable for once.

Still, this movie does a decent enough job of achieving everything that films in its genre hope to achieve. For a spy comedy with a plot that a teenager could have written, it works just fine. The film provides occasional laughs and a few moments of promising action, but these few promising moments become muddled amidst the poor acting and storytelling.

Grade: D


Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.



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