Opens Fri., April 16
The Joneses may look like the perfect family, but they’re not even related; they’re employees of an undercover marketing company, tasked with showing off luxury items to gullible suburbanites. There. You’ve just gotten the whole of The Joneses, a self-satisfied comedy that has few ideas of what to do with its promising satirical premise. David Duchovny and Demi Moore play well-maintained middle-aged faux-parental units with two too-old-for-high-school faux-kids (Amber Heard, 24, and Ben Hollingsworth, 26) who arrive at their latest upscale neighborhood, ready to sell golf clubs, cell phones and cars. Parties amount to product demonstrations, catered by “chefs” whose wares, you’re informed, are waiting in local supermarket freezers. Isn’t that exactly what suburban life is like, when you sit down and really think about it?
The Joneses’ set-up may be self-satisfied, but there are at least the makings for a rich lampoon of today’s lifestyles. And yet the end result is what happens when not-bad ideas happen to bad artists. Writer-director Derrick Borte spends most of the film dreaming up endless variations on his one joke, in which one Jones clan member saunters up to unsuspecting locals with a product and leaves, smiling, as their marks are sufficiently bewitched. Only once does the script achieve genuine cleverness, as when daughter, in reality a skanky serial mistress, sneaks into daddy’s boudoir for after-hours seduction, justifying that someone has to sleep with him since mom won’t.
This scene comes early, but not early enough: Obviously this bit would have made a killer reveal of the Jones family’s fakery, not the uncreative, ho-hum one that arrives in the opening minutes. It’s just another example of why Borte would have done well to hire screenwriters more clever than he, or at least have loaned it to another director. Boringly shot, heavy on the montage and featuring past-prime stars cast solely because they were affordable and recognizable enough to scare up a week’s modest business in the nation’s art houses before disappearing into Netflix Instant oblivion, The Joneses feels like it will turn undeservedly serious in its final stretch. Dude, you have no idea.