“We’re really going to do some damage in this town!” says Steve Jones (David Duchovny) as he and his perfect family – soccer mom Kate (Demi Moore), studly son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and cheerleader-cute daughter Jenn (Amber Heard) – roll into the upscale suburb that supplies the setting for Derrick Borte’s satirical first feature.
But the Joneses are not smiling serial killers or opportunistic travellers like TV’s The Riches. They are in fact stealth marketeers, cannily positioned to make their neighbours green with envy at all the unfeasibly cool stuff they have, wear and drive.
It’s a fine idea that could have made for a devastating critique of consumerism had Borte chosen to follow it through to a cynical, nihilistic conclusion. Sadly he bottles it, taking a more conventionally reassuring line when a more caustic, unforgiving take was available.
That’s not to say there’s no fun to be had watching Dave and Demi live out their Stepford charade, hawking their lifestyle to a gullible gated community more than happy to run out and snap up the cars, clothes and golf clubs they ostentatiously advertise. It’s just that the hard sell ends up going soft, Borte losing confidence in his scenario just as his characters start to see the error of their underhand ways.
Moore is scarily convincing as the highly driven team leader, obsessed with her numbers, while Duchovny lends his usual crumpled charm to his role as the only Jones equipped with a sense of irony. (“If you have something on your mind, you can always talk to your fake mom!” he tells ‘daughter’ Heard, a randy nympho not beyond sneaking into the bed of ‘daddy’ in order to satisfy her voracious sexual appetite.)
The leads’ good work, alas, is compromised by a clunky script that foists a credibility-straining romance upon them in an effort to make them more likeable.
Frankly, The Joneses would have been better if they’d remained heartless shits.
What shapes up as a sharp look at subliminal product placement eventually backtracks into a more formulaic morality tale about living beyond one’s means. Borte’s film has a good cast and a novel concept, but it should have gone further.