Keeping Up With the Joneses

Standing before me in black tactical gear, hair combed back but just a bit unruly, Jon Hamm looks exactly like Sterling Archer. He’s not wearing a tactleneck, but aside from that detail the illusion is perfect. As seemingly everyone did, I watched Hamm on Mad Men for years, so the timbre of his voice and his patterns of speech are intimately familiar. But in this getup I expect — I want — him to sound like Archer.

Jon Hamm knows this. He’s voiced a character on the show, after all. And would you be shy if knew you were the living incarnation of TV’s greatest/most irritating spy? Probably not. “Lanaaaaaaa!” he bellows before anyone can ask him to do so.

We’re outside the Atlanta set of Keeping Up With the Joneses, a 20th Century Fox movie in which Hamm plays half of a super-spy couple living undercover in the suburbs. His character Tim Jones is partnered with Natalie Jones, played by Gal Gadot, in life and work. We see the glamorous, ultra-capable pair through the eyes of a much more mundane couple, who are more than slightly agog as the spies-in-disguise set up stakes in their quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. 

Given those two leads and the setup, this could be skewed as an action film, Mr. and Mrs. Smith revamped, or an American The Avengers. (No, the other Avengers.) At the end of this day, on a large set dressed like a posh penthouse that is maybe two steps down from a Bond villain pad, Hamm and Gadot will take part in a gunfight with the movie’s Big Bad and assorted henchmen. The action is fast and violent, and complicated by the film’s other two major characters, who are in way out of their element.

Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis play the “normal suburbanites,” as Galifianakis calls them, a work-from-home designer in mom jeans and a security company drone, who are agog at their new neighbors. Then Fisher’s character sniffs out the truth about the newcomers, and things get weird.

The film’s first trailer is already out. It explains the concept well, and has flashes of the penthouse-suite action scene, so watch this footage before going further:

It’s early June in 2015 and we’re outside a former Baskin Robbins warehouse off to the side of an Atlanta neighborhood. Inside is the penthouse set. Later in the calendar year, a day like this might be a hothouse sauna intense enough to liquify Hamm inside his costume. This afternoon, however, would be ideal for exactly the sort of “banal BBQ chat” Isla Fisher explains as the bread and butter of her character’s life.

“She is actually the girl next door, the mom that we know,” says Fisher of her carpool-captain character. “She wears the mom jeans, she does the school run… but she’s also very smart. She’s the first one to crack that the Joneses are not who they say they are. It’s her exploration into their life that uncovers the whole plot, really.” Fisher works on the reliability of her character so that her marriage to Galifianakis, “who has a simplistic attitude to life,” will make sense.

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