- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Roadside Attractions
Reviewed by David Medsker
hildren might fear bogeymen or ghosts (or, in the case of this writer’s son, gorillas), but adults know that the most sinister things come in nondescript packaging, which is what makes the premise for “The Joneses” positively terrifying on paper. The family next door is actually a group of stealth marketers in disguise? That’s bad juju, right there. However, to execute such a ruse would take coordination, nerves of steel and, frankly, a group of sociopaths. These Joneses, of course, aren’t sociopaths, and in fact once you peel back the first layer, they turn out to be the worst employees a stealth marketing firm could ask for. That the movie is able to suspend disbelief for as long as it does is a testament to David Duchovny’s likability as an actor.
Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his beautiful wife Kate (Demi Moore), and their teenaged kids Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and Jenn (Amber Heard), have just moved into a nameless suburban area, and before long everyone in town wants what they have, unaware that that is precisely their purpose – they’re stealth marketers disguised as a family unit, each member tasked with selling a particular line of products. House leader Kate has the best sales figures, but Steve, the newest member of this family, is a fast learner, and soon has neighbor Larry (Gary Cole) wanting everything he owns. However, like real families, the Joneses are severely dysfunctional, and their personal indiscretions threaten to blow the lid off of their cover.
It’s a hell of a premise, to be sure, and never mind that there isn’t a corporation on the planet with the power to fake school transcripts, get employees enrolled into universities, etc. That’s easy enough to forgive. What isn’t so easy to forgive is the glaring character flaws that have been assigned to Mick, Jenn and Larry in order for the story to wag its finger at the evils of advertising and the pursuit of the so-called American Dream. Mick’s mistake is the most forgivable, since he merely showed poor judgment in a moment of weakness (though he still should have known better), but the script makes it clear that corporate is aware of Jenn’s issues, yet they allow her to continue to undermine their efforts. As for Larry, if he was really the kind of person who would do what he ultimately does, he would have done it long before the Joneses came to town. It’s all too easy, not to mention contemptuous.
Thank goodness, then, for Duchovny, whose affable nature actually makes you want the Joneses to succeed, even when they’re pushing alcoholic beverages on underage kids. That his character is blessed with the only common sense of the bunch is a plus, though Demi Moore is also strangely likable as the all-business den mother. Heard and Hollingsworth do fine with what they’re given, but that isn’t much, while Cole is wasted in the role of the covetous neighbor. Lauren Hutton’s appearance as the Joneses’ supervisor is just stunt casting.
There is a great movie to be made with this subject matter, but “The Joneses” takes the easy way out in favor of exploring the complexities of the co-workers-as-family dynamic, and it barely touches on the moral obligations that come with selling people things they don’t need. It’s so clear what side the filmmakers are on that it’s difficult to get emotionally involved. Movies should love their characters, even the flawed ones. “The Joneses” loves Duchovny, and tolerates everyone else.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
"The Joneses" limps onto Blu-ray with a pair of deleted scenes (an extended version of Steve's job interview and an alternate ending) that aren't particularly interesting. It's better than nothing, but when the bonus material is this thin, it's not worth the effort.