Keanu debuted this week, the first feature film and action comedy from Key and Peele stars, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The script was co-written by Peele and writer Alex Rubens. Rubens is known for being a part of several other successful TV shows, including Key and Peele, Community and Rick and Morty.
The story follows the dangerous life and adventures of a kitten named Keanu (actually voiced by Reeves), who, when the movie opens, is the beloved pet of a South American drug lord that has taken up residence in an old church to produce a new street drug, called Holy Shit. When two shadowy men show up and massacre everyone in the church, Keanu narrowly escapes, his immense cuteness being his greatest protection.
He then makes his way to the home of Rell, a sad lonely stoner whose girlfriend has recently dumped him. Rell instantly falls in love with Keanu and in a couple of weeks his life is consumed with caring for his new little friend. He even goes as far as to photograph a calendar where Keanu is recreating iconic movie moments from films like The Shining, Heat and Point Break.
But their new-found friendship is cut short when Rell returns to find his home has been trashed and Keanu has been taken. This prompts the two friends to go undercover and infiltrate the deadly gang known as the 17th Street Blips. Their leader, Cheddar (played by Method Man), took Keanu from who he thought was a rival dealer, renaming him New Jack and adorning him with a mini do-rag and golden chain. However, the cousins and best friends will stop at nothing to save their furry friend from the hands of dangerous drug dealers, even pretending to be psychotic serial killer gangsters.
Keanu is a movie that both mocks and pays tribute to old action movie tropes, making for a very similar comedy style to the Key and Peele sketch comedy show, which I am a HUGE fan of. Also much like their show, the pair delves into culture as well, slipping in and out of Ebonics (badly, I might add) as they attempt to maneuver their way deeper into the circle of gangsters and closer to their adorable buddy.
In an Interview with COS, Peele stated;
There are a lot of great spoofs that have been done, but we just relished the opportunity to make a movie that had our favorite things from some of our favorite genres of film, but was also its own thing, its own phenomenon, and its own movie.
In proper bromance form, Key continued the thought, saying;
It’s a spiritual cousin to a movie like Hot Fuzz. You know, where the story keeps you engaged and intact, and you care about the characters, but it’s clearly homage.
I found the comedy in this movie, for the most part, to be spot on and hilarious. Many of the jokes are just good, ol’ fashioned, funny following a traditional setup-punch-line format, quality slap-stick, and classic Laurel and Hardy style “straight-man and wise-guy” comedy.
Where the comedy falls flat, for me at least, was when they attempted jokes in the more modern style of exaggerated awkward. It’s just not really my cup of tea, and so I wasn’t able to exactly laugh, but I was able to tell when they were making the jokes. Don’t take this to mean that it’s filled with awkward humor, quite the contrary, just that the few attempts at it didn’t appeal to my sense of humor. Just about every other joke in the movie is freakin’ hilarious though! “George Michael is my JAM!”
The action in this movie was actually quite entertaining for a comedy movie. In regards to the humor it was spot on, the kitten is woven into the events in ways that are believable and funny, and the squares thrust into gangland violence aspect is well-played. The interactions of the characters in such situations make sense.
The action, however, is not ever-present, as it’s not so much a send up of movies like Bad Boyz, but more along the lines of Beverly Hills Cop. The central conflict of the movie is obviously about the cat, but conflicts between characters are just as interesting.
For instance, Clarence is a submissive people-pleaser, but when he accidentally smokes some Holy Shit, he is given some enlightening information that changes his personality when he finally understands it, and it gives his character’s conflict motivation to reach the clearly foreshadowed, but not overly so, conclusion.
As far as how the film was shot, it really didn’t include any particularly well filmed scenes, but there weren’t any scenes that were filmed poorly either. This really isn’t a highly stylized parable, it’s a clever and funny framing device for a standard revenge plot. It doesn’t need to be shot in a flashy style, it just has to convey the story, because the story itself is what is interesting.
Overall, I felt that the movie opened very well, carried the momentum most of the way through, got a little dull around the half-way to two-third mark, and then picked right back up. Was it worth $8.50? Absolutely. Would I see it again? Absolutely. Am I going to buy it on Amazon when it comes out? Absolutely.
So friends, if you’re a fan of old school action movies, one liners, kitties, or George Michael circa 1987, this may be the movie for you.
In fact, before you head to the theater, check out this hilarious interview with the Keanu stars, discussing Key’s George Michael “dance” scene from the movie.
Are you as stoked about this Key and Peele first as I am and the possibility of future full length feature collaborations from the comedic duo? Let us know!