Keanu Review

Posted: December 12, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

keanuWritten by Daniel Simpson

Of all the comedies to come out of Hollywood in 2016 Keanu seemed like one of the more interesting. For one, it didn’t feel like a generic studio comedy, but actually seemed to be coming from a specific vision, specifically that of comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The film also had a weird little premise, taking the form of a sort of action parody about two normal dudes who got involved with gangs in order to retrieve their kitten. The film had a solid little trailer too, but ultimately I passed on it, in large part because I’m mostly unfamiliar with Key and Peele’s sketch comedy series and thus I felt like I was not equipped to right about them. I still feel that way, but I’ve been looking for good comedy lately and thought this might be a good choice.

Rell (Jordan Peele) is a movie geek suffering from a bad break-up when a kitten named Keanu waltzes into his life. This adorable little ball of wonder raises Rell’s life considerably, but little does Rell know Keanu was previously owned by drug dealers and gangsters. Sure enough, Rell’s home is broken into when he is out and Keanu is taken. Wanting his kitten back, Rell enlists the help of his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), a middle-class father and husband living comfortably in suburbia. Though ill-suited to a gangster life, the two go undercover has hardened criminals to retrieve their kitty.

Much of Keanu’s is structured as a spoof of action movies. The plot is very simplistic, certain tropes are mocked, and the film also indulges in some comedic slow motion shootouts. That content works well enough, but the real highlight of Keanu is the identity politics at play. It’s clear from the get-go that Rell and Clarence don’t fit conventional black stereotypes and much of the film’s comedy stems from watching the pair try to act like hardened gangsters. At times, these gags go to fairly predictable places, like the pair talking more aggressively and throwing the “n word” around, but Key and Peele’s delivery is good that it hardly matters. There are also some surprising turns, like when some drug dealers learn that Clarence’s ipod is full of George Michael. Instead of trying to deny his enthusiasm for George Michael, Clarence goes on a rant about how much of a badass Michael and actually persuades the others. The film as a whole reminded me of last year’s Dope in the way it juxtaposed the experiences of black nerds in a more hostile environment and mined that for comedy. I’m not sure if Keanu is trying to say anything in particular about black identity with this, but it doesn’t need to either. Rather, it uses these politics for the purposes of comedy and the results are often quite funny.

The other thing that really works about Keanu are the performances from Key and Peele. It’s clear these two have worked together for a long time as they have great chemistry. Some of the film’s funniest moments just come from watching the two interact. That these two are talented is clear and I hope to see them do more films. That said, I don’t think Keanu is a total win. While it certainly has a lot of moments, there are also a fair chunk of jokes that fall flat. The movie is in fact pretty uneven and in particular I think the black identity stuff works a lot better than the action movie parody. The action content isn’t exactly bad, in fact some of the shootouts are pretty well filmed, but it isn’t very funny and there have been significantly better action spoofs.

Overall, I did enjoy watching Keanu for the most part but I’m also not sure it amounts to much. There are some funny bits, but in between that is a lot of content that doesn’t quite hit. I see a lot of potential, but the film never really amounts to all it can be. Still, Keanu remains an enjoyable little movie and as a rental or as something caught on TV it’s a certainly a fun watch. If nothing else, the film has further stimulated my interest in Key and Peele and if it introduces me to two new comedians I like that I’ll be grateful.


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