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Blu-ray Review: The Joneses (2009)

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If you’ve ever worked in the wonderfully voracious world of marketing, or you’ve always been one who clenches their fists at the first sign of product placement in a movie, this is the movie for you. At first glance, The Joneses seems like it’s going to be another dysfunctional tale of family feuding laced with some heavy less-than-subliminal advertising. Then, you get the feeling that it’s going to turn into the modern-day Pacific Heights at any minute. But, as it turns out, The Joneses takes it viewers down a far more horrendous and true-to-life route.

It’s just another typical sunny day in yuppie-land when The Jones family — consisting of Steve (David Duchovny), Kate (Demi Moore), Jenn (Amber Heard), and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) — move into a big-ass house in a prestigious upper-class neighborhood, and are promptly greeted by their new neighbors, Larry and Summer Symonds (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly, respectively). As American as apple pie straight from your grocer’s freezer, The Joneses seem to have a flair for being charismatic to the residents of their new community. They also have a flair for subtly suggesting their new friends buy the latest trends, whether they be body, soul, flesh, blood, or goods.

As it turns out, The Joneses are not a family at all. In fact, they’re actually a cell of stealth marketers: people who are paid to pose as a typical American family in order to push new items upon their fellow citizens (don’t laugh: such a form of guerilla advertising does exist!).

It takes no time for the Joneses to settle in and make a shitload of friends — coyly conning them into buying everything from flash frozen sushi to brand-spankin’ new Audis in the process. And, as evil as the entire Jones family may be, they seem to be doing OK: sales with their corporate manager (Lauren Hutton) are on the rise, and select members may even be in line for a promotion soon. Of course, though, all is not as well as it seems for this phony family: each member of the unit secretly longs for some sort of “normal” life away from their charade — and, as situations in the community begin to tense up on account of the Joneses presence, the four master salespeople soon begin to feel the pressure.

Honestly, I didn’t expect much from The Joneses. Hell, I didn’t even bother reading what it was about: I just picked it up because David Duchovny was in it. I figured I was in for just another run of the mill drama. But, as someone who is both annoyed by product placement in movies and has dabbled in the world of advertising as well, I have to say that this one really started to pull me in. And, from a critic’s point of view, The Joneses is a film that suggests first-time writer/director Derrick Borte has a good future in cinema ahead of him (of course, I said the same thing about the director of Donnie Darko once upon a time, and then he made Southland Tales, but that’s irrelevant).

The idea is a rather poignant one; bravely asking us to sympathize with people whom we would otherwise despise. But the story is not without its flaws, however: there could have been a lot more attention devoted to the Jones “kids” (especially poor Mick), but then, the movie would probably have dragged on a bit too long. As it stands, though, The Joneses still manages to be a highly entertaining and effective motion picture that touches on a subject that greedy Hollywood suits (who are only too happy to accept a donation from someone in exchange for a little harmless product placement) would normally not exploit.

And now, for the bad news. While Fox’s Blu-ray release of The Joneses is a decent one, it seems to be missing a lot of oomph. The 1080p MPEG-4/AVC transfer presents the film on a 25GB disc and in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, but the picture seems a little bland at times, mainly in the contrast department. Colors come through rather nicely, and the detail appears quite strong at times, but the black levels just aren’t all that. Still, beggars can’t be choosers: seeing as how this was a film with an extremely limited theatrical release, it’s understandable why Fox just sorta slapped it on disc and threw it out on the market.

On the audio end, The Joneses boasts an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Since it’s mainly a “talkie” kinda flick, most of the audio information comes from the front, with the rear speakers giving us a few good surround sounds here and there. Be prepared to reach for the remote, though, when the movie jumps to a few party scenes, as your speakers (and especially your subwoofer) will suddenly wake up and start dancing like a teen on E at a rave. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.

Sadly, the movies I actually like are the ones that always seem to have the least amount of extras. Apart from a trailer for Date Night, Just Wright, and a number of TV on DVD shows that pop up before the main menu, The Joneses only hosts two deleted scenes (in Standard Definition) in its special features department. The first is an extended bit wherein Demi Moore’s character interviews Duchovny’s for the position of “Mr. Jones.” The second and final clipped bit appears to be an alternate ending with David Duchovny’s character returning to his humble roots.

So, bottom line: The Joneses on Blu-ray is a damn good movie with a pretty decent presentation overall. And, although its selection of bonus materials outright sucks, this is one of the better films I’ve seen lately.

Plus, there’s a scene where Amber Heard gets nekkid.

Enjoy.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.