The Joneses: Scathing Satire Loses to Hollywood Ending!


Steve and Kate Jones are a happily married couple with two perfect teenaged children, Jenn and Mick. When they move into the neighborhood, their exquisite taste in clothes, furniture, electronics and automobiles – not to mention golf clubs, videogames and food – are soon the envy of all their neighbors. But The Joneses isn’t just a movie about rich neighbors with all the newest and best toys.

You see, Steve [David Duchovny], Kate [Demi Moore], Jenn [Amber Heard] and Mick [Ben Hollingsworth] aren’t actually a family. They’re a carefully, demographically perfectly constructed stealth sales team that is assigned to a neighborhood for one year by LifeImage Enterprises. The idea is that each member of the team bonds with members of their demographic group and show off various wares. Steve, for instance, demonstrates how a certain brand of driver increases his range of the tea, while Mick takes it upon himself to provide a party with a fruit flavored alcoholic beverage.

Problems arise on a number of fronts: Steve finds himself drawn to the magnetic Kate for real – and encounters someone from his life as a non-Jones; Jenn has some serious discipline problems – especially in her taste for men, and Mick has identity issues. Between them, they give team leader Kate more than a few headaches – though they do a more than serviceable job of flogging all sorts of high-priced goodies.

The impact of the Joneses on the neighborhood varies, but takes a problematic twist with next door neighbors Larry and Summer Symonds [Gary Cole and Glenne Headley]. A situation that even their boss and head cheerleader, KC [Lauren Hutton], can’t work to her advantage.

Writer/director Derrick Borte keeps the movie on a fairly even, not quite deliberate pace with a happy, shiny surface [achieved through sparkling cinematography utilizing a heightened palette] that is belied by a darkly satirical edge. It really isn’t difficult to accept that some aggressively ambition major corporation could conceive of such a sales platform – nor is it hard to believe that such a scheme might have produce the problems that arise over the course of the film.

Over two acts, Borte builds the satire and develops the characters until The Joneses is on track to join such great films as the original The Stepford Wives. Unfortunately, The Joneses takes the Hollywood ending over the darker, more appropriate ending the film has been building toward.

Though not entirely satisfying, The Joneses is well worth seeing. While it’s flourishing, the satire is delightfully dark and funny – and very much on target.

Where the DVD is lacking, is the features – all we get is two deleted scenes. Considering the film’s ambitions, that’s worse than none at all.

Grade: The Jones – B

Grade: Features – D-

Final Grade: B-