Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'Keeping Up With the Joneses' gives zany comedy a bad name

Keeping Up With the Joneses is the sort of strenuous comedy giving zany a bad name.

It's a spy spoof despite that genre's decline, folded into the uptight suburban schlub with a hot wife idea that's timeless but works better when it's a fraternity next door. Everyone got the memo to go louder, broader, force-feeding jokes in order to burp a few easy laughs.

As Woody Allen said of true comedy: If it bends, it's funny.

This movie snaps like a twig.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher overplay Jeff and Karen Gaffney, living on Maple Circle, a duller cul-de-sac than it sounds. Then in move the Joneses, a vibrant, sexy couple with an espionage agenda and solid cover stories. Tim (Jon Hamm) is allegedly a travel writer while Natalie (Gal Gadot) works for international causes.

Director Greg Mottola (Adventureland) lays out a typical movie lifestyle of sexual repression and DVR sameness for Jeff and Karen. Even their fantasy interludes seem familiar, uninspired. This couple needs a hotter spark than even Hamm and Gadot can offer, given the rote turns in Michael LeSieur's screenplay.

Tim builds a friendship with mancrushing Jeff to get inside information about his workplace, an aeronautics plant. Jeff is certainly no rocket scientist but an HR supervisor who doesn't relate well to people. Galifianakis delivers a few mild laughs in those contexts. When bullets fly and tires squeal, his performance ducks.

Hamm isn't bad, just not served particularly well by the script. His comical instincts are well established, despite Mad Men and being too darn handsome to be funny for some. Seldom does this material match his relish, except when Tim takes Jake to a bromantic lunch in a venomous hideaway. The jokes are no big deal but Hamm's delivery, a glint in his eye, lends a bit more fun.

While the male characters bond, the women settle into their objectified slots. Gadot doesn't get many chances to prove she's more than a pretty face, legs, etc., who can pose sexily with guns. Fisher's Karen adds another layer of discomfort, spilling out of boop-boop-be-doop lingerie as a sign of feminine strength and trailing Natalie in broad daylight with a conspicuous lack of stealth. Something about a comedic performance must be capable of being taken seriously. Nothing of Fisher's is.

Keeping Up With the Joneses is so flat and uninspired than its MacGuffin is microchips (again) and not even bringing in Patton Oswalt as a closer can save it. Zany just slumped out of the room, with madcap dragging behind.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
SoundBytes: Black Angels, Black Lips, Carbon Leaf, Ripe and more

SoundBytes: Black Angels, Black Lips, Carbon Leaf, Ripe and more

— Psych-rockers the Black Angels, above, and Black Lips are teaming up for a spring tour that'll hit the State Theatre on April 18. Click here for details.— Nathaniel Rateliff and the  Night Sweats are coming to Jannus Live on May 5 ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekendGasparillaChildren’s Parade: A week before the more raucous pirate invasion, the G-rated version hits the streets. The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza and Parade kicks off Gasparilla season with a bicycle safety rodeo on Saturday ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
13 things to do in Tampa Bay on Jan. 18

13 things to do in Tampa Bay on Jan. 18

Darlene Love: One of the most influential singers in rock and roll, Love has been singing since the 1950s. She was one of the legendary backup singers featured in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. 8 p.m., Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St., Tampa. ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘12 Strong’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘12 Strong’

OPENING FRIDAY:CALL ME BY YOUR NAMEAnother young man’s summer he’ll never forget is the core of Call Me By Your Name, a movie to likewise treasure. Luca Guadagnino’s coming out-of-age drama is a rare exception to familiar romantic rules.This film’s s...
Updated: 8 hours ago
‘Woke’ artists return to Tampa, explore Steven Kenny’s surrealist landscapes

‘Woke’ artists return to Tampa, explore Steven Kenny’s surrealist landscapes

TWO-FER: UTOPIAS AND UNFILTEREDMark Thomas Gibson and William Villalongo are New York-based artists whose individual work explores the black experience in America, in both historical and personal contexts. Their work was showcased in the powerful but...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

PICKING AND GRINNING: Steve Martin and Martin ShortThere wasn’t a lot of bluegrass being played around Hamilton, Ontario, when Martin Short was a kid. But his decades-long friendship with Steve Martin has made him a fan, which brings An Evening With ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

RIVERDANCE AT 20: CIARA SEXTONShe’s a former world champion in Irish dance, and now Ciara Sexton, center, is leading Riverdance in Tampa. A lead dancer and soloist with the troupe, Sexton said she has felt comfortable touring the states."What really ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Ann Curry ‘not surprised’ by Matt Lauer scandal, says NBC had a ‘climate of verbal harassment’

Ann Curry ‘not surprised’ by Matt Lauer scandal, says NBC had a ‘climate of verbal harassment’

After Matt Lauer was fired from the "Today" show in November due to allegations of sexual harassment, multiple awkward TV moments from his past came to light, particularly regarding conversations with women. One incident got a lot of renewed attentio...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Steve Martin, Martin Short talk about building their two-man show, surprising each other on stage and more

Steve Martin, Martin Short talk about building their two-man show, surprising each other on stage and more

It's barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they'd be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we've got to play Florida more....
Updated: 9 hours ago