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REVIEW: The Joneses

This movie can't keep up with other dark satires

The Joneses: Rates a D+.
Courtesy photo

Keeping up with the Joneses that live next door, well…this first time writer/director tried keeping up with directors that have made dark satires. He gave a very strong opening sales pitch. We have a good looking cast that really sells the picture. Demi Moore has a strong presence on screen, and David Duchovny always reminded me of a better looking and more likable Richard Gere. Yet they drop the ball in the second half of the movie and can’t close the sale.

The neighbors add some strong support to the cast. There’s Gary Cole (Bill Lumbergh from Office Space) and his space cadet wife, Glenne Headly, who has some beauty products of her own she’d like to sell. Headly is an interesting actress. She’s a blend of Jennifer Tilly and Goldie Hawn, with better acting chops than the two.

It is strange when Cole breaks down and finally buys a fancy car to keep up with the Joneses. He has rap blaring from the car stereo as he pulls up (a similar joke was done funnier in Office Space). It’s a shame that in such an original and interesting story, the second half resorts to many things we’ve seen and heard before.

There’s an interesting subplot with the neighbors, but it also makes it hard for us to feel for them when they get bamboozled by their new “friends.” I’ve never felt bad for any of my dingbat friends that have purchased time shares that they now can’t trade with anyone (and they’ve grown tired of two week vacations in Nebraska each year).

Some people think I’m too tough in what I like for a film (or with my friends that want to lament crappy purchases). I don’t think I am. This movie made me think of the Dan Akyroyd/John Belushi film Neighbors, which didn’t get good reviews, but I enjoyed.

The problem is that films need to do more things right than they do wrong. This movie can’t decide between being a dark satire or not. And an interesting premise and great cast can’t carry the other clichés and flaws through out the picture.

When Duchovny tries so hard early on to be romantic with Demi Moore, it feels awkward. If they merely having a working relationship, shouldn’t we think this is creepy of Duchovny, not romantic?

When Duchovny starts feeling guilty for tricking the people in this town -- instead of me liking him more -- I wonder what he thought this type of sales job entailed.

It’s also unclear how the kids get involved in the predicaments they do. Are they really underage? If so, many of the illegal activities (underage drinking, enrolling in school, etc) don’t make sense. But to talk about flaws would waste time. This movie is full of holes. And that wouldn’t bother me if I liked the movie.

Thank You for Smoking was done a lot better, but I had problems with that movie, too.

The Joneses tries to make these grandiose statements on consumers and marketing, and I’m not sure it’s the powerful movie that it probably looked like on paper. And, when Lauren Hutton (who the producer told me before the movie started, hasn’t been on screen in 20 years) delivers a brand new Audi to Duchovny for improving his numbers (who knows how they can even monitor such things). I realize it’s the third time I’ve seen this new Audi model in movies (most recently in Date Night). It makes me wonder about the product placement we’re seeing in a movie that’s making an indictment of such ploys.

I’m not the biggest Demi Moore fan, but like Harrison Ford (who I don’t think is much of an actor), both seem to pick roles that they’re perfect for. And Moore, as the patriarch of this family, hits just the right notes.

When the family starts to have the predictable problems, as well as problems because of their character – we wonder how this group ever did this before and succeeded.

None of the romances in the film work, and a few scenes with Duchovny are awful. One involves an old friend that recognizes him and calls him by his real name (how many movies have we seen that before?). Another involves him comparing himself to Tiger Woods. Obviously this was shot before Tiger got into all his problems. You see, many people forget that Duchovny checked himself in as sex addicted a few years ago.

This movie has a few jokes that work, and for a while you're enjoying the ride.

I’d glad they didn’t play the horrible Counting Crows song Mr. Jones, but would’ve loved to have heard Stan Ridgway’s Salesman thrown in somewhere.

If you like the idea of this movie, I’d recommend The Truman Show or Glengarry Glen Ross. This movie is melodrama garbage, albeit wonderfully shot and a great cast almost making the garbage presentable. I wish the Coen Brothers or Mamet would’ve tackled this script instead.

The Joneses opens this weekend, and I’m giving it a D+.

If you like it, leave a comment with your email address and we’ll talk about some Amway products I might want you to sell for me.