Entertainment » Movies

Keanu

by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Apr 29, 2016
Key & Peele star in 'Keanu'
Key & Peele star in 'Keanu'  (Source:Warner Bros. Pictures)

Making the leap from sketch to feature is tricky. You need look no further than the majority of the "Saturday Night Live" film output, a filmography that is filled with far more turds than gems, to understand just how hard it can be.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have shown over the course of five seasons of their series "Key & Peele" that they own sketch. The duo has a sense of humor that is a delightful mixture of witty, crass, and biting satire that always felt fresh even as they repeated themselves. But the question remained whether or not the pair could adapt to the feature mentality while not losing the humor that has driven their success. "Keanu" is their first test, and they pass it with flying colors.

In a small and cluttered apartment, Rell (Jordan Peele) sits heartbroken. His girlfriend has left him, finally having gotten tired of his slovenly ways. He descends deep into a vat of tears and bong smoke. Just when he thinks there is no escape from his depression, the smallest and sweetest of kittens arrives on his doorstep. The daintiest meow reinvigorates Rell, and he dubs his new friend Keanu (because what is he, if not a Hawaiian cool breeze?).

Little does Rell know that Keanu isn't the type of kitten to be forgotten easily, and his former owners don't exactly post missing cat flyers. They want him back and don't care whom they have to tangle with.

The opening of "Keanu" has many qualities of sketch. It acts as something of a cold open to the film, wherein the audience is granted few details and the action slams into the viewer's face. It is as if Key and Peele are easing themselves into the feature film world, starting with something familiar and expanding it out to a much grander scale. As soon as the film starts in earnest and we are introduced to our main characters, the stars have already acclimated themselves to this new space. Any of the kinks of sketch life have been so thoroughly ironed out that it makes the concern held by many viewers seem downright ridiculous.

"Keanu" has a whole lot going for it, not the least of which is the script from star Jordan Peele and former "Key & Peele" writer Alex Rubens. The dialogue feels authentic, and the humor has a special kind of heightened reality to it that is fantastically appropriate for the tone but never smacks of cinematic bombast. Peele is wonderfully comfortable as Rell, and Key is downright fantastic as Clarence. The characters feel like extensions of the Key and Peele personas, normal guys living in between worlds of color. They volley between what is described as "Richard Pryor's imitation of a white guy" and the rap video equivalent of a gangster with an ease that lends itself to comedy.

While the screenplay seems custom built to the voices of Key and Peele, their performances are what sets the film apart. Jordan Peele's hopeless devotion to Keanu, which while genuine feels somewhat underdeveloped, still reads as authentic. However, it is Keegan-Michael Key who is the true star. Key is able to wring comedy out of the smallest moments, juggling subtle facial tics with the more grandiose and loud expressions for which he is known. Director Peter Atencio appears to recognize the many strengths of Key, but pulls him back just enough to spare us of the potential annoyance. Personally, I could watch a whole film where Key expounds on the depths of George Michael's "Father Figure" to a group of misguided youths, but Atencio is smart to only offer up a few morsels. He knows full well that it is far better to leave the audience wanting more than to smash them over the head to the point of numbness.

In terms of actual cinematic output, "Keanu" falters a bit. The premise is far from unique, its execution is reminiscent of 80s buddy comedies like "Beverly Hills Cop" or "48 Hours." Perhaps more recently, it feels like a parallel tale to "Pineapple Express," what with its drug influenced environment and fish-out-of-water conceit. The bullets hit with true finality, cars go flying, and blood sprays. It is an action comedy that isn't afraid to punch you in the face and laugh as the blood trickles out of your nose. It's a whole lot of fun -- just a kind of fun that you've definitely had before.

More than anything else, "Keanu" serves as proof that Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are not one-trick ponies. These guys can carry a film and have confidently left the realm of sketch comedy. "Keanu" is packed with wall-to-wall laughs, and the jokes have an intelligence to them that keeps them from expiring as soon as you leave the theatre. The action is intense, the jokes frequent, and the kitten is almost shockingly adorable. Seriously, I am confused as to how I have gotten this deep into my review without noting the incomparable cuteness of the titular Keanu. If you were ever wondering what sound your body would emit when trying to simultaneously awe and guffaw, this film helps you find out. "Keanu" may not be wholly original but it is the type of film that has leaves you hankering for a re-watch as soon as the credits roll.

Keanu

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.

Info

Runtime :: 100 mins
Release Date :: Apr 29, 2016
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States



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