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The Joneses DVD Review

The Joneses movie poster The Joneses

Theatrical Release: March 19, 2010 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Derrick Borte / Writers: Derrick Borte (screenplay), Randy T. Dinzler (story)

Cast: David Duchovny (Steve Jones), Demi Moore (Kate Jones), Amber Heard (Jenn Jones), Ben Hollingsworth (Mick Jones), Gary Cole (Larry Symonds), Glenne Headly (Summer Symonds), Lauren Hutton (KC), Chris Williams (Billy), Christine Evangelista (Naomi Madsen), Rob Pralgo (Alex Bayner), Tiffany Morgan (Melanie Bayner), Joe Narciso (Henry), Ric Reitz (Bob Jones), L. Warren Young (Detective Gardner), Hayes Mercure (Tim Madsen)

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By Kelvin Cedeno

What would happen if your friends weren't who they said they were? What if they turned out to be corporate plants trained to subtly sell you merchandise? This clever premise is explored in The Joneses, a film which takes a far-fetched concept and makes it spookily palatable.
Companies are always looking for fresh and effective ways to get their products out there. Having your employees pose as a family with the hippest new items is both a bizarre and ingenious marketing plan. However, how does this psychologically affect the employees leading this false life?

We find out through Steve (David Duchovny). He's new to this job but still puts on a good face with the rest of his fake family: wife Kate (Demi Moore) and children Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). Posing as "the Joneses", the clan is assigned to an upper class neighborhood. They move here temporarily and show off to neighbors the wide variety of expensive items in their lavish home. From Steve's golfing equipment and Kate's hair care products to Mick's video game accessories and Jenn's beauty supplies, there is no limit to what the gang offers. The family appears so perfect that the town can't help but want to emulate them.

The Joneses are all smiles as they welcome two next-door neighbors into their seemingly perfect home and life. As their perfect image starts to crumble, Steve (David Duchovny) tries to get Kate (Demi Moore) to confide in him.

All is not so perfect within closed doors, though. Living a lie doesn't sit well with Steve, and he tries his best to have a real relationship with his co-workers. To them, though, this is just another job, and there's little need for communication. Kate's goal is to sell enough products to make icon status, a prestigious level that allows the "family" to give input on merchandise before it's even created. Jenn, meanwhile, deals with her loneliness by sleeping with older married man Alex (Robert Pralgo). Mick starts hanging with teen rebel Naomi (Christine Evangelista), but on top of the whole marketing spin, he has personal reasons for befriending her. The more the Joneses immerse themselves into their town, the more difficult it is to maintain their image. Their neighbor Larry's (Gary Cole) jealousy over their seemingly endless wealth causes a domino effect that unravels the entire operation.

More casual and laid back than one would expect, The Joneses doesn't take full advantage of its intriguing concept, but it still does well with it. It's not concerned so much with satirizing corporate greed as it is with examining how that affects people on the lower parts of the chain. Don't expect a twisting, turning storyline as this is first and foremost a character piece. That's fine as the four leads are interesting enough to carry the picture. Front and center, of course, are David Duchovny and Demi Moore. The two have a surprisingly nice chemistry together that makes the dynamic work. Kate is constantly career-minded and wants to be the best at everything whereas Steve just wants to enjoy life (real or otherwise) for what it is. It's an effective juxtaposition that's mined convincingly by the two stars.

Naomi (Christine Evangelista) is intrigued by her new friend Mick (Ben Hollingsworth), but he barely pays her any heed. Trying to emulate your neighbors can be expensive as Summer (Glenne Headley) and Larry (Gary Cole) find out while sorting through their credit card bills.

The film doesn't do a whole lot wrong, but two elements stand out somewhat. First off is the wide variety of characters. Running just an hour and a half, there isn't much time to spend on the colorful neighbors. While the Joneses themselves should definitely be the focus, we see very little of their interaction with the locales. Many characters are introduced and then suddenly dropped off and relegated to montages. Not fully seeing the Joneses connect with these people makes the last third less powerful than it could be. Speaking of which (without spoiling anything), the end of the film feels rather false. It would be easy to say it comes out of the blue, but that's not really the case. The story does pave the way for the ending, but it still feels at odds with what came before.

The Joneses is a pleasant diversion, nothing more or less. Clever at its best and shallow at its worst, the story always manages to entertain and involve in either incarnation. A premise like this seems ripe for a story with more bite than what's here. Still, the performances by the cast, including underused supporting ones like Gary Cole and Glenne Headley, keep things moving briskly and make for a light romp through upper class materialism.

Buy The Joneses on DVDfrom Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $27.98
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Another timely Fox review means another DVD-R screener that's not indicative of the final product's quality. Given this copy's rampant compression artifacts, picture and sound can't be accurately assessed.

Kate sets up the camcorder for Steve's job interview in this deleted flashback scene. The DVD's main menu replicates the theatrical poster showing a "family" portrait of the Joneses as different items in the photo are given price quotes

BONUS FEATURES and MENUS

On DVD, The Joneses comes with just a pair of letterboxed deleted scenes (4:35). One of these is a flashback showing Steve's job interview with Kate.
The other appears to be either an alternate ending or an extended one (it works either way). The flashback was a wise cut as it goes on too long and merely explains the way the company works even though the audience can easily figure it out elsewhere. The ending, however, works better than the final one (or at least would work better with the final one) as it brings Steve's character arc full circle.

The disc opens with trailers for Date Night, Just Wright, "Modern Family", Fox dramas on DVD, and FX.

The DVD's main menu features what at first appears to be just a static shot of the titular family similar to the theatrical poster. After a few seconds, however, little animated captions pop up that indicate the value of each item seen in the photo, ranging from the Joneses' clothing, their car, and their home. Submenus offer static versions of this theme, with still promos accompanied by price captions.

Kate (Demi Moore) struts her stuff both literally and figuratively as her peers check out her new jumpsuit. To satisfy her need for some genuine affection, Jenn (Amber Heard) engages in an affair with Alex (Robert Pralgo), a man twice her age.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A brilliant premise with serviceable execution, The Joneses dabbles in various dramatic elements without ever really exploring them properly. That doesn't make it anywhere close to being a bad film, though, as the cheeky dialogue and solid performances amount to a decent little flick. The DVD-R pressing the studio sent us for review prohibits us from judging the final product's look and sound, but it's disappointing that nothing else than two deleted scenes were culled for the supplements. A film of this sort almost begs for a commentary track, but it's obviously not high enough on Fox's radar for such effort. While The Joneses is not really memorable enough to warrant a recommendation, those who enjoy tongue-in-cheek dramedies may find this worth a rental.

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Reviewed August 11, 2010.



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