So let me get this straight: you have a movie that features Don Draper and Wonder Woman as a badass pair of super spies and the result is the disappointingly mediocre Keeping Up with the Joneses? Heads should be rolling over this laugh-free exercise, which also manages to waste the time of occasionally-funny Zach Galifianakis and the talented Isla Fisher, not to mention director Greg Mottola who gave us Superbad and Adventureland. Scoring laughs with this group should be like shooting fish in a barrel, but instead it's shooting nothing but blanks.
Let's get one thing clear: the actors are not the problem. These are all professionals capable of rolling with the punches dealt to them by Michael LeSieur's hacky screenplay which may have been found in a desk drawer from 1991. Galifianakis and Fisher are bored parents Jeff and Karen, whose life in Atlanta suburbia is highlighted by neighborhood cookouts and DVRs of The Good Wife. Even with the kids away at camp they can't find anything meaningful to do, until their dull existence is given a swift kick in the pants with the arrival of a new, seemingly-perfect neighbors. Tim (Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gadot) have everything: they're glamorous, gorgeous, sophisticated, well-traveled. She's got the perfect features and physical gifts of an Amazonian princess (now that's a surprise) to go along with her cooking blog, while he's some kind of Anthony Bourdain knockoff traveling the world in search of adventure.
Turns out they are actually government spies working undercover on a mission, but they are nearly found out within moments of meeting Jeff, a human resources employee with questionable people skills, and Karen, whose sole daily task seems to be snooping on her neighbors. So despite all of the cool car chases, globe-hopping, and butt kicking stuff, Tim and Natalie may not be the best spies in the world. The film doesn't make that point ever but it's kind of obvious. Passing themselves off as ordinary is apparently tougher than taking down worldwide terrorist organizations in Marakesh.
You can probably guess every point-by-point step the movie takes as it tries desperately to live up to the meager aspirations of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. At least that film had Branjolina going for it, although to be fair Hamm and Gadot are just as sexy and funny a pair when given the right material. This is not that material. What few jokes there are come exactly when you expect them. Will Jeff and Karen find themselves in the middle of one dangerous predicament after another? Of course. Will their ordinary nature come in handy at just the right time? Naturally. Each predictable gag is dished out with the cadence of a TV sitcom waiting for its laugh track, joined by cheap, sunny lighting and archaic score.
Keeping Up with the Joneses comes from a long line of domestic comedies that contrast far-out genre elements with middle-class suburban malaise. When done right you get Grosse Point Blank or the original Fun with Dick and Jane (good lord not that awful remake); done wrong and you get Killers or, now, Keeping Up with the Joneses. Along with Masterminds this is the second comedic stinker Galifianakis has in theaters right now, so perhaps this is a suitable vehicle for him. But for Hamm this is not the kind of lead role we hoped to see him in following Mad Men. He can do better, and so can Gadot and Fisher whose best scenes all involve them in some form of lingerie. Granted, I'm not complaining about any of that but they are capable of and deserving of more than this.
Rating: 2 out of 5