Film Synopsis: “Recently dumped by his girlfriend, slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep. After a heartless thief steals the cat, Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to help him retrieve it. They soon learn that a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has the animal, and he’ll only give it back if the two men agree to work for him. Armed with guns and a gangster attitude, it doesn’t take long for the hapless duo to land in big trouble.”
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are brilliant comedians. If for any reason you haven’t seen even one episode of their breakout hit sketch show “Key & Peele” then you should head over to ComedyCentral.com and watch whatever they have available because it’s incredible.
Keanu essentially plays like a really long “Key & Peele” skit, and that’s not a bad thing. Granted, sometimes when you’re watching a comedy sketch and it drags on too long it can stop being funny and grow stale. Keanu doesn’t suffer from this problem. A big part of why that is though, is that it’s not entirely a “comedy” in the way you think it is. Sure, everything about this screams “Key & Peele: The Movie”, right down to the fact that Peter Atencio, the director, and Alex Rubens, a co-writer of the film, both worked on the entire “Key & Peele” series. That’s enough to cause you to expect this to be a continuation of the show, but there’s way more to it.
In press interviews, the guys have said that Keanu, while definitely a comedy, is also an homage to all the action films they loved growing up, like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 hrs. That love is evident from the very beginning. From Rell’s posters of Heat and New Jack City, to the uncanny similarities between Hi-C, a female gang member played by Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinket Smith’s character “Stoney” from the film Set It Off. All the best action movie tropes, everything you love about films like Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, are present. Shoot-outs, car chases, villains who won’t stay dead… It’s a cinemagasm for action movie nerds.
With the resurgence of action-comedy films, like the Jump Street movies or comic-based action/comedy movies like Kingsman and Deadpool, the question on our minds becomes, “Well is this like those movies?” Honestly… Not Really? It’s not like Deadpool at all, but I would say that it’s similar to 21 Jump Street in that they’re both paying tribute to something nostalgic. Then again, it could also be fairly compared to Kingsman as that film is very much an homage to the classic James Bond style spy movies. Still though, it’s very different. The big difference I think is that our main characters Rell and Clarence start the movie as regular dudes, and essentially end it still as regular dudes. Sure, the adventure they go through to get back Keanu changes them some, but it’s not like they end it as bad ass spy’s or anything. One of the best things about Keanu is that it lampoons those 80’s and 90’s action movie tropes. They acknowledge the ridiculousness of all the typical situations and play out the reality of what would actually happen in hilarious ways. That’s not to say Keanu doesn’t also have it’s own ridiculous situations, just that’s self-aware and makes sure the audience knows it.
This talk about the nature of the film is all well and good, but let’s get down to what really steals it… That adorable kitten! For real though, I don’t even like cats and I was constantly “Awww”ing this little guy. He completely steals the show. Whether it’s propped up in a little do-rag and gold chain, or running scared amidst a blaze of gunfire, when he’s in a scene, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Now in reality, they used several different kittens to play the role, because kittens grow, and it takes movies a while to film. They do a fantastic job of making sure, however, that it never feels that way. There were no moments that I thought to myself, “Hey that looks like a different cat.” That’s Hollywood magic for you I guess?
I don’t feel like you have to already like Key & Peele, and what they do, to enjoy the film, but it does help if you appreciate their style of humor going into it. This film marks the first time that anyone in this creative team (Key and Peele, as well as Atencio and Rubens) have worked on bringing a major motion picture to life and they’ve done a fantastic job considering. I look forward to more from these guys in the future.
Overall, Keanu is a fun film. Lots of laughs, great action, and tons of references to classic action movies you know and love. If you love all that, plus cuddly kittens, then I highly recommend that you check it out the next chance you get.