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When the seemingly perfect all-American Jones family moves into a rich suburban neighborhood, the neighbors are filled with envy and admiration of their success, good looks and apparently endless stream of desirable possessions. But as the neighbors fall over themselves to keep up with the Joneses, none are prepared for the sinister truth behind this all-too perfect family.
For more about The Joneses and the The Joneses Blu-ray release, see the The Joneses Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Ben Hollingsworth
Director: Derrick Borte
» See full cast & crew
The Joneses Blu-ray Review
Don’t bother keeping up with them.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 16, 2010
As the saying goes, we spend money we don't have, to buy things we don't need, to impress people we don't like. All in an attempt to keep up with the figurative Joneses. Well, they were figurative, anyway. Inspired by the recent recession, first time writer, director, and producer Derrick Borte has brought the catchphrase family to life, making them the next-door neighbors that everyone envies and admires. You may say to yourself, "isn't that a bit obvious?" Well, yes, it is. You may also ask, "Will the film wag its timely finger at the spend-first, pay-later practices of morally and financially bankrupt American consumers?" Or, "Is it a satire on the keeping up with the Joneses mentality of materialism and debt born from feelings of social inferiority?" Or just, "Is it any good?" Good hypothetical questions, all, and I'll tackle them in order: Yes, yes, and it tries, it really does, but ultimately, no, not really.
We first meet the Joneses as they move into a swank new house, a behemoth of a McMansion in an upscale neighborhood where the average income is over 100k. Movers unload 18-wheelers full of brand new Ethan Allen furniture and an Audi sports car is deposited carefully in the driveway. Clearly, the Joneses are into some serious money. Steve and Kate (David Duchovny and Demi Moore) are perfectly groomed and impossibly confident, and their teenaged kids, Jenn and Mick (Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth), look to have been birthed from the pages of some designer fashion line's summer catalog. By all appearances, the Joneses are a model family, fit to live in their newly purchased model home. Ah yes, but appearances—as always—are deceiving, and once they're inside, away from the neighbors' prying eyes, the Joneses' glossy veneer begins to show its cracks. First, Kate sexually shuts Steve out of the bedroom, literally slamming the door on his face. Then, we see svelte daughter Jenn sneak into the spare room where her father is sleeping, strip naked, and slip beneath the sheets. What in tarnation is going on here, you ask? To even begin to talk about The Joneses requires the slipping of a mild spoiler, one that's revealed about fifteen minutes into the film, so don't hold it against me.
Be prepared to suspend your disbelief. As it turns out, the Joneses are not, in fact, a happy atomic family—you know, the sort that comes inside the picture frame. They're not even related. They're actually a "unit" of "stealth marketers" who work for a company called Life Image. Their mission? To influence the buying habits of their well-to-do neighbors, subtly swaying taste and pushing target products. Steve hits up the golf course to charm middle-aged men into buying a specific brand of clubs. Kate schmoozes in the local beauty salon and holds cocktail parties where she slyly hocks flash-frozen sushi that's available at the local grocery. And the kids are instantly popular at school, where they secretly shill new clothes, video game systems, and rum coolers. You can probably see where this is going, and if the film has one overriding fault, it's that it's utterly predictable, to the point of being dull. Naturally, Steve and Kate's fake marriage gives way to real feelings, complicating the business end of their relationship. Obviously, the kids are going to get into some trouble of their own—nymphette Jenn falls for an older man, and Mick has trouble balancing his sexual identity with his work expectations. And, of course, the next-door neighbors (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly) fall under the Joneses' spell, spending themselves into financial oblivion in a vain attempt to keep up. Vain, it should be said, in both senses of the word.
What starts as an overly obvious but mildly clever satire on the desire to accumulate material wealth to fill some sort of social/emotional void, eventually gets mired down in been-there-before suburban melodrama. There's plenty of intrigue early on, when we're not sure what's up with the Joneses—the supposed family's sexual dynamics are compelling in a WTF kind of way—but once their true identity is revealed, the film trudges half-heartedly toward the inevitable tragedies and predestined resolutions. There's a reason why most satires are dark comedies and not just didactic dramas—it helps not to be so self-serious when trying to make a point. Writer/director Derrick Borte seems to earnestly believe that The Joneses' over-intoned message is somehow deeply profound, but he never sells us on it. We're left with a general feeling of well, okay, yep, we get it. What now? A film like this might have seemed slightly prophetic before the implosion of the real estate market, but now it just feels like Johnny-come-lately finger pointing. Although they aren't given much to work with, the cast does try valiantly to give the perfect-on- the-outside, broken-on-the-inside performances that the script demands. Amber Heard is surprisingly good (and sexy) as Jenn—look out for her upcoming, co-starring turn with Johnny Depp in The Rum Diaries—and Gary Cole is perfect as the envious neighbor, desperate to have it all. This is Duchovny and Demi's show, though, and they play their fake-turned-real romance well, making a hard-to-believe premise a bit more believable. One final observation: Is it just me, or is David Duchovny starting to look like a young Walter Matthau?
The Joneses Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Joneses take up residence on Blu-ray with a more-than-capable 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, framed in a 2.38:1 aspect ratio. I was actually quite impressed with the image—it's rich, naturally filmic, and although the lighting veers at times toward the flat, lifeless, overly bright look that you usually find in big budget comedies, there's plenty of depth and presence to the picture. Color-wise, there's nothing here that screams HD eye candy, but the neutral tones of the Joneses' house are warm and inviting, flesh tones are natural, and outdoor scenes have a realistic saturation level. Solid black levels make for an image with rocksteady contrast, and darker nighttime sequences offer better-than-expected shadow delineation. Sharpness wavers a bit, with a few scenes toward the end of the film that look oddly soft, but in general, fine detail is resolved in close-ups, edges are crisp—but not overly so—and facial texture is easily visible. Basically, this is a transfer that looks like it hasn't been tinkered or tampered with much, and that's definitely a good thing. Grain is untouched by DNR abuses, edge enhancement is nowhere to be seen, and I didn't spot any out-of- control compression issues, even though the film has a relatively low bitrate and sits on a single-layer, 25 GB disc.
The Joneses Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a lazy Sunday stroll through the suburbs, with little engagement from the rear speakers and only a few instances of overt "sound design." You'll hear some cars pass through the surround channels, some water noises in the girl's locker room, party chatter, and some low volume airy ambience outside, but that's really about it. The only other thing that gets output from the rear speakers is Nick Urata's equally restrained score, which never gets loud enough to have real presence, but sounds good, considering. The front-heavy mix emphasizes dialogue, which is crisp, clean, and perfectly balanced throughout. There's really not a lot to say here; the track is as quiet as a pre-dawn golf course, but there are no major audio hiccups. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available in easy-to-read white lettering.
The Joneses Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Deleted Scenes (SD, 4:26)
All we get are two deleted scenes, one of Steve's interview, and one of his life after Life Image.
The Joneses Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Okay, we get it. What better time than an economic recession for a pointed film about materialism and consumer culture. Only, The Joneses is too on-the-nose, too obvious. I mean, it's called The Joneses. It's also dull, patently unbelievable, and can't seem to decide if it wants to be a cynical, black comic satire or an emotion-laden drama. The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, but unless you're a diehard Duchovny or Demi Moore fan, there's really not much of a reason to give The Joneses anything more than a rental.
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The Joneses Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Joneses Announced on Blu-ray - June 10, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced The Joneses for release on Blu-ray on August 10. This comedy starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore only got a limited theatrical release in April and, despite overall positive reviews, grossed under $1.5 million ...
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