The Joneses are just a regular suburban American family - Mom, Dad, two teenage kids (a boy and a girl, of course) - the kind of people whom wealthy suburbanites aspire to be and "keep up with." Each member a specimen of physical beauty and personal charm, the family as a whole appears to be the consummation of their upscale lifestyle. In another movie, the Joneses might be grifters out to fleece the community or deep-undercover detectives trying to infiltrate the secrets of someone's ill-gotten wealth.
But in an angle perfectly suited to our times, Derrick Borte, writer and director of The Joneses, deposits the family into a wealthy suburban enclave for other surreptitious goals: The Joneses are a stealth marketing team, employed to lure their neighbors and classmates into purchasing all the products they so ably model as a living tableau. Everyone wants whatever it is the Joneses are having, be it golf clubs, beauty products, flat screens, gourmet goods or apparel.
The stunning attractiveness of the Joneses proves the efficacy of these items. For maybe a third to halfway through the film, Borte's premise works beautifully. The jokes are generally amusing, and the idea of a stealth marketing team is truly intriguing and plausible. Demi Moore and David Duchovny are well cast as Kate and Steve Jones, gracing the film with their generally sardonic line deliveries and cool presence.
Kate is the team leader, who keeps her eye on the prize of moving up the corporate ladder; Steve is a newcomer on his first assignment and learning the ropes. Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth play the high schoolers, who hook their classmates on every new consumer item they're assigned to pimp. Gary Cole and Glenne Headley, longtime masters of slyly satiric stylings, are the neighbors whose debt spirals out of control because of their friendship with the Joneses, while Lauren Hutton is the off-site majordomo of the operation.
But around the midway point, the film's cultural critique falls by the wayside as the Joneses are hit with psychodrama after psychodrama. The tone shifts from comedy to moralistic cautionary tale, in which every event is utterly foreseeable. The Joneses never recovers from this sense of its bottom having dropped out. It makes the eventual happy ending seem sillier than it might have if we'd felt as though we were still watching a comedy.