Even those of us with a soft spot for dumb, high-concept Hollywood comedies might be outraged by the limp, unfunny nothingburger that is Keeping Up with the Joneses. A wan attempt to mix the comedy of domestic anxiety with the comedy of inept espionage -- think Neighbors meets Central Intelligence -- Greg Mottola's film plays like a rough outline waiting to be filled in. It's as if somebody wrote out the basic setup, figured they would flesh out the character bits and plot twists and jokes later … and then never got around to it. It's dispiriting and infuriating.
You know the story, even if you don't know the story. Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) are a happy, blah suburban husband and wife who become fascinated by the mysterious, good-looking couple who've just moved in next door. Rugged Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) says he's a travel writer, while the statuesque Natalie (Gal Gadot) claims to be a social-media consultant and an activist for Sri Lankan orphans, but Jeff and Karen and their fellow neighbors suspect something is up. And something is up, because why have a movie otherwise?
The ostensible narrative about a mousy couple uncovering their neighbors' secret spy identities gives way to a tale of self-discovery, as empty-nester homebodies Jeff and Karen realize they need variety and action in their lives and globe-hopping, baddie-killing Tim and Natalie realize that they need consistency and communication in theirs. Unfortunately, the film does almost nothing with that irony, other than point it out and then just let it hang there. Even the action scenes feel drained of energy or purpose.