A new family moves into an affluent suburb, and they seem to have it all. Why are the Joneses so trendy and popular? It’s certainly not because they’re a happy, well-adjusted family, since these are the indie-movie suburbs, where happy families don’t exist. No, the Joneses aren’t actually a family at all; they’re a team of “stealth marketers,” whose job is to invisibly promote the latest products—from cars to clothes to frozen dinners—to their unsuspecting neighbors and friends, all in the name of building word-of-mouth.
Writer-director Derrick Borte takes this somewhat clever concept and turns it into a muddled mix of weak social commentary, predictable drama and wan comedy. From the moment that faux husband Steve Jones (Duchovny) starts expressing more than professional feelings for his boss/pseudo-wife Kate (Moore), you can see exactly where this movie is going.
Real love is more important than pretend happiness, marketing is soulless and cruel manipulation, and material things don’t bring anyone contentment: These and other tired clichés about modern consumerism are dutifully put forth in The Joneses, which seems to have a peculiarly antiquated view of how marketing works in the 21st century (social media isn’t mentioned once). Borte’s satire lacks bite, and the characters (including Amber Heard and Matt Hollingsworth as the Jones “kids”) are hastily sketched. They’re not absurd enough to be pointedly funny, but they aren’t real enough to care about as people. Like a bad marketing campaign, The Joneses fails to make a convincing case for itself.