THEATRICAL REVIEW: Keanu
Produced by: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Joel Zadak
Written by: Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens
Edited by: Nicholas Monsour
Cinematography by: Jas Shelton
Music by: Steve Jablonsky, Nathan Whitehead
Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Method Man, Tiffany Haddish, Luis Guzmán, Nia Long, Will Forte, Jason Mitchell, Dee Bradley Baker
I don’t know why I didn’t ever watch more of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s show – you know the one. I’ve obviously seen skits of theirs that have gotten around on YouTube and such and have always found them very funny, so… I have no idea. I do watch a lot of shows, though. That’s probably why. Regardless, the show ended back in 2015, so it’s only fitting that the duo make the leap from TV to the big screen, as they say. And, so, yes, they have done that, and the result is Keanu. … And here is my review of it.
Keanu is the story of a man and his kitten and his cousin. And the dangerous drug dealers they all get involved with after the kitten is taken from him. This is pretty much where a bulk of the movie’s plot takes place, as the two men attempt to play tough and pose as infamous assassins they’d never previously heard of – who also just so happen to have laid claim on the adorable little kitten, as well. For a movie centered on and marketed so much based on its insanely cute and marketable MacGuffin, Keanu doesn’t cash-in on the cat thing nearly as much as I was expecting, instead relying upon the talents of its human stars to carry the film with some trademark racial code-switching humor and their inept attempts to act like streetwise gangsters. And, you know, for the most part, it totally works.
For their first starring roles, Key and Peele do a pretty great job carrying the movie, their characters’ impromptu outbursts and posturing never going so far as to be embarrassingly broad. Keegan-Michael Key in particular gets most of the laughs between the two as Clarence, whose straight-laced yuppie type with a serious affinity for George Michael’s music. Jordan Peele is also very funny, though, as Rell, whose journey from depressed, recently-made-ex boyfriend to incensed former cat owner serves as the emotional pillar carrying the story. It’s hard to say who’s the straight man in this duo, though, given that both of them ping-pong between who’s going of the edge more at any given moment.
This movie is very much like the 21 Jump Street movies in that regard, though the film isn’t nearly as audacious, its set pieces aren’t as well-choreographed, nor is the general overall flow as well-paced as those movies. There is an unfortunate lull in big laughs that starts in the middle, when they go on their first drug sale. The movie mostly recovers afterward; however, the scenario presented here could’ve rivaled the surprise reveals in 21 Jump Street or at least aspired to be half as hilarious as the one in Zombieland. We instead spend far too much time on this particular film’s guest appearance, and, as welcome as they are, they aren’t nearly as inherently amusing as the previous examples, relying more on shock value and the predictable reactions of one of the main characters than presenting anything subversive or clever about the scenario in the first place.
Luckily, the film does pick up the pace again after some time, and while it never does shake that feeling of being kind of sloppy and just this side of aimless, Keanu is still very entertaining and even has a good supporting cast in Method Man as Cheddar, the gang leader in possession of Keanu, Tiffany Haddish as the conflicted, hardened second in command, Hi-C, and Will Forte as Hulka, Rell’s drug-dealing stoner neighbor. And, yes, the cat is possibly the freaking cutest movie animal in a while.
If you liked anything you’ve seen from Key and Peele’s stuff, you’ll likely find more of the same reliable stuff here, too, regardless of the movie’s overall problems. If you were obsessed with the show and are still mourning its loss, you’ve probably already seen this and intend to buy it, but if you haven’t see it and probably buy it, too. As for anyone else? Well, give it a shot anyway. It’s a funny enough movie, and you could most definitely rent lesser comedies than this one. That one guy in my theatre certainly thought it was hilarious – he even laughed when nothing funny was happening, like the kitten merely meowing. Or the establishing shots of houses…
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5