The Joneses (Blu-ray)
Directed by Derrick Borte
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Review Date: August 11, 2010
In Derrick Borte’s The Joneses, Americans’ preoccupation with materialism is taken to task, but the satire is so weakly conceived and executed that the film emerges limp and listless. The old adage of “keeping up with the Joneses” is approached literally here, but despite a good cast, its points are obvious and its plot turns pure melodramatic claptrap. A potentially keen swipe at our national consumer mania is botched by a toothless script and mundane direction.
The Joneses move into a posh upper middle class suburban neighborhood and impress everyone with their style and class. Mom Kate (Demi Moore) has the latest designer duds, dad Steve (David Duchovny) plays a mean game of golf with his amazing new clubs, daughter Jenn (Amber Heard) and son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) dazzle the kids at their school with their terrific electronic toys and upper tier clothes, shoes, and notions. But beneath this perfect family lies a surprising secret: they’re not a family; they’re shill artists hawking the latest commercial gear to every person they can come into contact with to impress. And it works. Within the first month, everyone shows double digit gains in marketing except for father Steve who is told to shape up his act or a “new dad” will replace him. Steve has a problem, however: he’s falling for the woman masquerading as his wife, and he’s really ready to nest with her and make a real family. Kate, though, is a goal oriented professional who’s only interested in attaining icon status within the company which will get her even higher end clients in an even more exclusive neighborhood.
The speed in which the Joneses hook their quarry is meant to be a red flag to viewers about falling for the lure of low pressure merchandizing. The trouble is that we already know how credit card debt is one of America’s most serious problems, and yet the film seems to think viewers are going to be shocked by these revelations. As the Joneses’ neighbors (Gary Cole, Glenne Headly) buy more and more expensive cars, electronics, and furniture in order to keep up with their high-flying neighbors, we understand the tragedy of their mania, but so what? It doesn’t make for good drama. And when writer-director Derrick Borte pulls out a series of third act reversals: the kids both having romance issues, Steve and Kate finally going to bed together, a foreshadowed suicide that’s no shock at all and rather silly, the falling apart of this “perfect family” is no more affecting than flies being hit by an insect zapper.
Demi Moore is picture perfect casting as this variation of a Stepford wife with her dedication to self marketing: all surface emotions with no real emotions underneath. David Duchovny seems to be trying for something a bit more real since he’s continually the odd man out of the foursome, but he only comes across as bland and nondescript. Too bad Ben Hollingsworth and Amber Heard get stuck with really predictable storylines (he’s hiding something about his personal life; she’s hooking up with a married man) because their little bit of screen time shows them to both be interesting actors trapped with colorless material. Gary Cole once again scores in a role beneath his abilities, but Glenne Headly seems oddly reticent with her lines and her reactions, as if she’s always a beat behind. As the company field agent who evaluates each team, Lauren Hutton turns on her stern face and voice to decent effect.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented at 1080p using the AVC codec. Color saturation and flesh tones are the most accurate aspects of this transfer, but overall sharpness varies quite a bit. The inside scenes in the Jones’ big, open, sunny house often soften and flatten the picture with its extreme diffused lighting, but other sequences show a more natural sharpness and dimension. Black levels are above average but not exemplary. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix achieves no great distinction with Nick Urta’s unassuming score being the major beneficiary of the front and rear surrounds. Otherwise, very little is done with the soundfield in capturing the ambient sounds of suburban life (golf course, housewarming parties, school locker rooms and playgrounds). The LFE channel gets the night off.
The disc has two deleted scenes (neither of much interest) which may be viewed individually or in one smileys/4 ½-minute block. They’re presented in 480i.
The disc presents trailers for Date Night, Just Wright, Fox’s TV dramas, and FX’s TV drama series.
2/5 (not an average)
Filled with irritating plot holes, uninvolving character revelations, and predictable social satire, The Joneses is pretty much a failure. The Blu-ray presents mediocre video and audio quality and only the barest of bonus material.