Duchovny, Moore go into sales with clever satire in 'The Joneses'

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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"The Joneses" has a very clever concept: A marketing company dispatches a family of insanely appealing people, led by heads of household David Duchovny and Demi Moore, to make their neighbours covet all the cool gadgets and products they've got.

It makes for good, though not great, satire of the consumer culture that helped wreck the economy, a gotta-have-it mindset that continues to flare up even in hard times (iPad, anyone?).

"The Joneses" has a very clever concept: A marketing company dispatches a family of insanely appealing people, led by heads of household David Duchovny and Demi Moore, to make their neighbours covet all the cool gadgets and products they've got.

It makes for good, though not great, satire of the consumer culture that helped wreck the economy, a gotta-have-it mindset that continues to flare up even in hard times (iPad, anyone?).

Duchovny and Moore do a fine job hawking first-time writer-director Derrick Borte's premise, even if the story does diminish from a razor-sharp opening to a meandering midsection to a mushy Hollywood ending.

Audiences won't come away with any deep insights about our advertising age of acquisitiveness. But they will keep up with "The Joneses," whose stars make it breezy and entertaining despite the gimmick at the heart of the story.

The movie opens as Steve and Kate Jones (Duchovny and Moore) move into a beautiful home in an upscale neighbourhood with their high school kids, Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth).

The Joneses' impact is immediate: they have the newest, nicest everything - electronic devices, furnishings, cars, jewelry, clothes, food and wine.

And they are beyond eager to share the particulars of each product - where to get it and what makes it so good - with their new friends, including Larry and Summer (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly), neighbours who attempt to renew their strained marriage by following the conspicuous example of the Joneses.

Turns out the new folks on the block are not a real family, but a group of stealth marketers overseen by KC (Lauren Hutton), an executive who specifies the products their company's clients want pushed.

After an excellent setup, the story sputters. Borte tacks on some interpersonal hijinks for Jenn and Mick that add little, and it's hard to imagine that the townsfolk would be fooled into believing that twentysomethings Heard and Hollingsworth are high schoolers, though that's a small gripe. Hollywood has been selling grown-ups as kids in movies forever.

What holds "The Joneses" together so well is the great interplay between Duchovny and Moore.

The Star of "The X-Files" and "Californication," Duchovny has strained at some big-screen romantic leads before, but he nails this one with his easy charm and salesman's finesse.

Moore has made some odd choices ("Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle"?) given how picky she's been on parts for more than a decade. She's relaxed and seems to be having a great time in "The Joneses," making Kate's strange domestic relationship with Steve fun to watch as the two grow closer.

It stays fun even as the movie ultimately sells out with a fuzzy romantic climax. But like any good case of envy, "The Joneses" leaves you vaguely dissatisfied and wanting more.

Three stars out of four

Organizations: Joneses, The Star, Full Throttle

Geographic location: Hollywood

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