A quick post-mortem, then, on “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” a caper comedy that neither capers nor gives birth to many laughs.
It has Zach Galifianakis, who broke out in “The Hangover” movies and is finding great humor on TV in “Baskets” and the mock interview show “Between Two Ferns.” He does another nerdy nebbish in “Joneses,” an HR advisor who fills conversations with the weasel words of self-help speak.
Jeff, his character, is also into home beer brewing and the puns that come with it.
“Don’t let that yeast get infected!”
There’s Isla Fisher, playing his character’s wife. She was funny — well, back before she married Sacha Baron Cohen, anyway. Karen is a mother of two with a suspicious streak, especially when it comes to Jeff and Karen’s new neighbors.
Jon Hamm has been hilarious — on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” if not on “Mad Men.” He’s Tim Jones, an unusually well-off “travel writer” with a lot of questions and a room full of suspicious looking (spy) gear.
Gal Gadot, the new Wonder Woman, is an Israeli playing Tim’s “Greek” bombshell wife, Natalie, who does a foodie blog and volunteers for a Save the Orphans of Sri Lanka charity. She’s at home in action scenes, her ponytail flying as she pokes her head out the car window to empty a clip into the motorcyclists chasing them. But she can handle a funny line.
“I may not need moisturizing, but I have feelings!”
“Joneses,” about Atlanta suburbanites who figure out their new neighbors are spies, pretty much fails because of that lame set-up and the lack of more of those funny lines playing to each actor’s strengths. It’s a limp, low-energy comedy where the players do the best they can with the material, but “Superbad/Adventureland” director Greg Mottola and his players can’t wring anything funny out of Michael “You, Me and Dupree” LeSieur’s script.
Jeff, a little effeminate (like most Zach characters) and pretty much friendless, develops a man crush on Tim, who might be his new BFF. But Karen warns him, this man crush thing has happened before and that didn’t come out well.
“You mean Bruce? She likes to be called ‘Caitlyn.'”
Tim knows all of Atlanta’s underground fun — like the back room Asian “snake restaurant” he drags Jeff to when he says “Let’s go eat Chinese.” Jeff doesn’t have a clue about what’s on the menu.
“Yeah, but Panda Express doesn’t serve PANDA — does IT?”
Galifianakis, staring at a recent string of big screen flops, delivers here and there. Fisher and Gadot have a lingerie shopping/bonding scene that exists solely to show off Gadot’s leonine form. Not funny.
And Hamm, also staring down the barrel of a big screen career that’s going nowhere, simply has nothing remotely amusing to play.
A bit of third act stunt casting almost pays off, until you start listening for one-liners and looking for giggles that don’t accompany the stunt.
Comedies this tepid go into production every day in Hollywood. Some lose their funniest moments during filming or editing. Some are rescued by players who can joke-up their lines and roles. Most aren’t. Galifianakis is the only member of this cast up to that, and even he drowns in this sea of not-remotely-silly silliness.
LeSieur? He’s landed the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” remake of a remake. You and me and Benedict Cumberbatch (the star) await with bated breath for the laugh riot he is sure to deliver.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Patton Oswalt
Credits:Directed by Greg Mottola, script by Michael LeSieur. A 20th Centyrty Fox release.
Running time: 1:45