Monday, November 07, 2016

Keeping Up With the Joneses (2016)

Director Greg Mottola has made a few movies worth tracking down for one reason or another—Paul, Adventureland, Superbad, and all the way back to The Daytrippers 20 years ago, on the indie circuit. His warm and gentle low-key style focuses on character quirks as the natural source of laughs and character motivation. It's most obvious when he also writes the screenplays (Adventureland and The Daytrippers), but it's always there. He did not write Keeping Up With the Joneses, which perhaps explains this movie's very strong desire to be a sexy spy and action movie. As a matter of tone, it keeps intruding until finally it takes over the picture altogether. Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Godot) are the new neighbors in the cul-de-sac on Maple Circle, in an upscale Atlanta suburb. We learn from a chatty realtor in the first scene that the Joneses paid for the house with cash, without ever looking at it in person, so it's obvious they are no ordinary suburban couple. Jeff and Karen Gaffney, however (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher), put out the old welcome mat for these exotics anyway, and Tim is grateful—because actually he is a spy who wants information about the corporation where Jeff works in HR. Soon enough, they have a bromance going, and Karen is warming to Natalie too. Then the movie starts to spring various surprises, so I'll leave off here on the plot summary. (Comedies aren't normally subject to spoiler rules, are they? At least I'm not sure I can think of one. I have to be forgetting something.) There are a few bright moments, most of them involving Galifianakis. Fisher and Godot have a couple good scenes too. But then familiar action routines start up, with car chases and firefights and such. This movie is not that funny, and I can't imagine it cuts the mustard as an action picture either.

What about this? In my town, the movie choices are basically a couple of multiplexes, plus a decent arthouse. The multiplex I tend to favor is presently undergoing renovations, switching over to a reserved seating system. Has this been going on for a while? You have to pick your seat when you buy your ticket. The seats are double-deluxe, overstuffed padding with wide armrests and a button to tilt back and shove up a leg-rest like a barcalounger. It's kind of like a dentist's chair. I'm not sure I understand the business strategy here, because now there seem to be fewer of these expensive seats in each theater. I suppose that means the prices are going up, but is this something people want? The aisles are wide and my worry is next they're going to try serving food in there or something insane like that. I've been going to the other multiplex a lot lately. Maybe I shouldn't worry so much.

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