- Movie Rating -

Keanu (2016)

| May 1, 2016

Keanu might very well be the cutest violent action comedy that I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, it’s adorable.  It features a kitten that draws the “awwwww” from the audience every time it mews, but it’s surrounded by violence at every turn.  There’s a moment in this movie when we see a severed hand in the foreground and the kitten softly runs past just a few feet away.  This is the first movie I’ve ever seen where the reaction from the audience went from “Ug!” to “Awww” in a span of about three seconds.  I think that’s progress.

Yet, that belies the bigger point.  Is Key and Peele’s first feature film funny?  Yes, I laughed quite a bit actually.  Is it a comedy classic?  No, but for their big break this isn’t bad.  The creativity that the duo displayed on their TV show is present here as they move between different voices and personas and physical styles of comedy.  This isn’t a cash grab.  They want to make you laugh.

The story is simplicity itself.  The boys play Clarence and Rell, cousins whose personalities and lifestyles are far more Caucasian then they probably even realize.  Clarence has way too much love for the musical styling’s of George Michael and Rell is a stoner and movie-nut whose apartment is a love letter to Hollywood action pictures like Heat and New Jack City.  Currently, he’s marinating in a stew of misery and heartache after his girlfriend walked out on him.  He spends his empty days pining for her when he isn’t cozying up with his bong.

Suddenly to his lonely doorstep comes an adorable gray tabby that gives Rell’s life purpose again.  His grief is replaced by a fully-charged obsessed with the cat, whom he names Keanu.  He takes pictures for a personal calendar, posing him in scenes from The Shining, Point Break and A Nightmare on Elm Street (you’ll want one these calendars, trust me.)

What Rell doesn’t know is that Keanu has just walked away from a violent shootout in Allentown at the hands of two vicious gangsters known as The Allentown Brothers (also played by Key and Peele).  Rell’s happiness is short-lived when he comes home to find a gang called The Blips (so named because they weren’t good enough for the Bloods or the Crips) have broken into his house, ransacked the place and stolen his new furry friend.  So, the two suburban squares navigate into the gangsta underground to get him back.  Their advantage is that the local gangsters mistake them for the vicious Allentown Brothers and greet them with a measure of respect even when it is revealed the Clarence’s jam is George Michael’s “Father Figure.”

Much more about the movie I shouldn’t say.  Actually, much more about the movie I can’t say.  You have to be there.  The movie is more or less a series of funny fish-out-of-water gags as the boys find themselves in one mess after another and escape because the gangster are either stupid, blind, ignorant or all three.  The movie is wall-to-wall with relentless pop culture references and digs on black identity and obsession with popcorn movies (their obsession with Liam Neeson is a holdover from their show).

The smart thing here was not to focus on the cat but on the obsessive search for the cat, which leaves us a lot of time with these two guys.  The joy of Key and Peele is that they have boundless chemistry and they’ve made the wise decision not to spend too much time on dramatic elements.  Some of the comic bits don’t work but what is refreshing is they many more do work, including a Tarantino-style scene at the home of a famous actress and a drug trip that brings Clarence closer to the essence of Keanu then he might have expected.  Of the jokes, I must be vague.  There are revelations here that are truly inspired.

Is it a perfect movie?  No.  It’s probably a bit too long and meanders once too often.  But Keanu is a fun ride.  The motivation is solid.  When you see the hard look in Rell’s eyes when he realizes what he must do to get Keanu back, every pet owner knows that he or she would do the same thing.  We care about this little guy.  Sure there are dead bodies everywhere, but we want to see the cat get to back where he belongs.  That’s what’s important.  Human life can wait.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy