It’s often the company our title character keeps in Confess, Fletch that determines the success rate. Jon Hamm effortlessly wears the role of a former journalist who is forced to solve a murder. The urgency is due to I.M. Fletcher finding a female corpse in the house he’s staying at in the first scene. He calls the police station instead of 911 after the discovery. Why? The emergency part is over, according to him. His ambivalence results in humorous moments throughout. It also leads to him becoming the prime suspect.
Greg Mottola has directed comedies that killed like Superbad and Adventureland. He’s also behind the dud Keeping Up with Joneses, which costarred Hamm. This reboot of a franchise that yielded one of Chevy Chase’s finest pics in 1985 and a disappointing 1989 sequel is somewhere in between. When it’s funny, it’s quite funny. There’s also the matter of the mystery itself and it’s not very compelling.
Before Chevy made the often disguised wisecracker into his own vehicle, the character was based on a series of Greg Mcdonald novels. Confess, Fletch is based on his second book. It involves kidnappings and art thievery that our former “investigative reporter of some repute” (as he refers to himself) gets caught up in due to his romance with wealthy Italian contessa Angela (Lorenza Izzo).
Fletch may be the prime suspect to law enforcement, played memorably by partners Inspector Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri). He nonchalantly scopes out others. This includes Angela’s potentially gold digging stepmom The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden) and perhaps Angela herself. The Countess is an example of a character played quite broadly and while Harden seems to be having a ball, there’s other personalities that the movie could’ve benefited from with more screen time. I’m thinking specifically of Annie Mumolo’s gossipy next door neighbor and Lucy Punch as a jilted ex-wife of another suspect. I would’ve taken more bits with them over The Countess or Kyle MacLachlan’s EDM loving art dealer.
Just like Hamm’s take on the reputed reporter, it’s easy to go along for the ride. It was also easy to wish for more of what worked best. Ultimately I was about as involved in the plot mechanisms as Fletch himself and that’s sporadic.
Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are two performers that made themselves known to the moviegoing masses with some outlandish roles where they got to let their freak flags fly in TheHangover and WeddingCrashers, respectively. So it’s a bit disconcerting to see them playing the typical dull suburban married couple in KeepingUpwiththeJoneses. Typical is a word that can be applied to a lot of what we see here. The film isn’t bad. It’s just ordinary. The leads aren’t bad either. They’re just more boring than we’re used to and a by the numbers screenplay doesn’t help them any.
The aforementioned actors play Jeff and Karen. He is a Human Resources manager whose daily routine consists of handing out stress balls and initiating trust exercises. She is mostly obsessed with the home decor of their lovely abode in a cul-de-sac, including the chic installation of a urinal. Some needed excitement comes to them when new neighbors move across the way and they’re the interesting and impossibly good looking Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gil Gadot). Tim is the handsome travel writer. Natalie is the gorgeous cooking blogger/social media consultant who also rescues orphans (her LinkedIn page wins).
It’s not long before Karen’s nosiness has her thinking maybe they didn’t quite hit the neighbor jackpot. Turns out she’s right as the Joneses are actually secret government agents investigating nefarious happenings at Jeff’s workplace.
The Joneses real careers means we’re treated to a threadbare subplot involving tracking an arms dealer and some rather tepid action sequences. Yet this is mostly about the chemistry between the four leads as their marriages and friendships develop. It’s just too bad this is contained in a completely unimaginative formulaic manner.
The PG-13 rating does leave the raunch factor to a surprising minimum. This is a script where the sight of two women kissing (oh my!) is treated as a big punchline. Gadot does manage to hold her own playing against these three others known a bit more for the genre (as anyone who’s watched Hamm on SNL can attest to). We see some potential in moments as the bromance between Galifianakis and Hamm grows, but not enough. Greg Mottola, who’s made some fine comedic efforts with Superbad and the underrated Adventureland, is not at the top of his game here. This is the type of picture that the content yet slightly bored suburbanites depicted here might view with some contentment but mostly be bored. And not talk about it much afterwards.
Some familiar faces populate the action comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses, out next Friday. In fact, one of those faces is Zach Galifianakis, who just appeared in Masterminds, which performed poorly. Joneses and Masterminds have this in common: both were delayed by their studios, which usually isn’t a good sign.
This one costars Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, and Gadot in a tale of a bored suburban couple whose lives are spiced up when a couple of secret agents move next door. Greg Mottola, director of Superbad and Adventureland, is behind the camera.
Keeping Up was originally scheduled to come out in April before its push back. Even with the talent involved, I’m not so sure the marketing campaign has been strong enough (or the trailers quite funny enough) to cause it to break out. There’s not much direct competition in the comedy genre, but there are a host of other pics clamoring for the attention of adult audiences.
This should hover right around low double digits. It should do better than the $6.5 million premiere of Galifianakis’s aforementioned early October effort Masterminds. Unfortunately, that’s not saying a whole lot for this late October release.
Keeping Up with the Joneses opening weekend prediction: $10.1 million
For my Jack Reacher: Never Go Back prediction, click here: