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Review: Galifianakis, Hamm worth ‘Keeping Up’ with

Greg Mottola’s comedy eschews cynicism for a welcome, wholesome vibe

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

A couple of super-spies shake things up in an Atlanta cul-de-sac in “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” an action comedy that makes up in heart what it lacks in ingenuity.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are Jeff and Karen Gaffney, a suburban couple for whom an exciting night means watching DVR’d episodes of “The Good Wife.” They’re square-ish — Jeff is a human resources manager at a local aerospace and defense company who gets his thrills indoor skydiving — but they’re not so removed from their younger selves that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to have fun.

Things change when their new neighbors, Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot) arrive. Turns out they’re more than just well-traveled, deeply cultured and charming individuals, they’re also government secret agents on the trail of an espionage plot.

“Keeping Up with the Joneses” doesn’t break any new ground in terms of story mechanics, which are as telegraphed as any in the average-folks-lifted-out-of-their-average-lives genre. But director Greg Mottola (“Superbad,” “Adventureland”) deserves credit for avoiding cynicism or meta-comedy tropes that would turn “Joneses” into a sour experience.

The movie actually picks up steam as it moves along — the villain reveal is a fine surprise — and if its lessons about friendship and teamwork don’t fully resonate, they’re at least welcome. Galifianakis and Hamm are better than the material here, but they do what good actors in okay movies are supposed to do, they make it rise to them.

“Keeping Up with the Joneses” won’t change the neighborhood, but it’s worth popping in on.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language

Running time: 101 minutes