You don't have to be a fan of The X-Files to appreciate the walking innuendo that is David Duchovny. He begins his new movie with the announcement, "Looks like I'll be gettin' my swing back." Never let it be said that David Duchovny is just talking about golf. In The Joneses, he stars as Steve Jones, father of two teenagers, adoring husband to Demi Moore's Kate. But not really. The Joneses are actually a marketing team disguised as a nuclear family, planted like a sleeper cell in a suburban McMansion, so they can model luxury brands for their unsuspecting neighbors. Kate is Steve's supervisor, effectively pimping him out at the country club to sell 5-irons. "You're a charismatic guy," she scolds him, "but if you don't apply yourself, then that's all you're gonna be." So, Steve applies himself.
This is great high concept for a satire, a consumerist spin on the witness protection comedy. Steve finds himself torn between pleasing Kate as her employee, and falling for her; between keeping up with the Joneses, and the other jones, the one that landed Duchovny in therapy a couple years back. There's even a lewd bit of prophecy, when a friend from Steve's past recognizes him in a restaurant and almost blows his cover. "I get mistaken for other people a lot," Duchovny quips, "but usually it's for Tiger Woods." Nice save.
Duchovny should take this role more often, using his outrageous mojo for romance, rather than playing the incurable creep on his TV show Californication. This film, sadly, falls apart around him. Writer-director Derrick Borte films the fancy neighborhood in a cheap glare, but he could have acknowledged the seductiveness of style, like last year's Confessions of a Shopaholic, a better movie about love conquers mall. And the chemistry between David and Demi gets obscured by the supporting characters, each with a subplot. There's the promiscuous daughter, the closeted son and the next-door couple ruined by debt, played by Gary Cole and Glenne Headly. It's all too thinly sketched and maudlin to take seriously, what with the ridiculous premise. Duchovny's casual sexiness is funny, and plenty neurotic on its own. Sometimes, charisma is enough. R.
opens Friday at Fox Tower.