'The Joneses' doesn't keep up

May 14, 2010 

The Joneses is the old keeping up with the Joneses premise on steroids.

Writer/director Derrick Borte dots his film’s landscape with pretty people — Demi Moore, David Duchovny and newcomers Ben Hollingsworth and Amber Heard — and with gorgeous homes, carefully coiffed lawns and shiny new cars.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Outside it’s bright and shiny. Inside its ugly.

Borte’s hypothesis works. We are a consumer society. Corporations spend billions on glitz and flash to get you drooling over their products. New, improved, better means we have to have it and have it now. No money? Can’t live without it? No problem. Put it on the card. The card is maxed out? No problem. Get another card.

Those attitudes helped fuel the still-tanking economy. Take it a step further. What if friends or even the neighbors next door — you know, the ones that always seem to get the latest and greatest products first — are really corporate shills planted to introduce you to products that you can’t resist? Like the creatures inhabiting print, TV and Internet ads, these people are as beautiful as the products they’re hawking.

The Joneses are a “family” headed by Moore’s character. In public, they’re a loving, caring family. When the doors are closed and they’re alone, there is relationship, no love. It’s a sales group with goals and quotas to meet. Each has a core group to target.

The teen kids go after high schoolers from well-to-do families. Moore’s Kate and Duchovny’s Steve tackle adults. He works business and professional types, she goes after soccer moms and businesses that support both men and women.

Everything is so pretty — too pretty. Too perfect. Too polished. It works to set up the concept. Even when all goes wrong, the film’s fatal flaw is Borte’s refusal to give his satire the darker, uncomfortable edge it needs to give his “lesson” some impact.

Everything collapses in the contrived third-act and his inability to resist neatly wrapping up the package.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Rated R for mature themes, language, brief nudity. It opens Friday, May 14 at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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