Film Review – Keanu
If you’ve ever had your heart broken (and/or a proclivity for gnarly bong rips), you’ll likely see a lot of yourself in the forlorn Rell (Jordan Peele), professional sad sack in Keanu. Devastated following a recent break up, Rell compels his cousin and best bud Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to visit for a weekend while his wife (Nia Long) and daughter are out of town. In the interim, however, a beacon of furry light has graced Rell’s presence and made life worth living again. Naturally, he names the feline life-saver Keanu.
What Rell and Clarence don’t know is Keanu arrived at their doorstep only after a valiant (and adorable) escape from a bloody massacre, orchestrated by the illusive and hulking members of the Allentown gang (also played by Key and Peele), and wouldn’t you know it, they want their little fuzzball back. The boys return home to discover it’s been destroyed and, no no oh god no, Keanu has been kidnapped! After some tear-filled detective work, Rell theorizes the burglarly was likely intended for his pot plume of a neighbor, Hulka (an amusing if under-utilized Will Forte.) Some light and funny interrogating leads them to local drug lord Cheddar (Method Man) and his gang of merry criminals. Because this movie is an exercise in absurdity (not a slam, mind you), Cheddar mistakes the boys for the Allentown bros, forcing them to shed their white bread personas in an attempt to fit in and cause trouble. This goes about as well as expected.
To reveal any more of the plot is futile. You’re either in for this occasionally violent farce or you’re not. Director and frequent Key & Peele collaborator Peter Atencio clearly revels in the dynamic between his two stars, allowing for several scenes that seem to rely heavily on improv. Some land, some don’t. Fortunately, the ratio of jokes is so rapid fire you’ll likely still be recovering from the last to be disappointed by the next. Not to mention this cat, guys. I’m by all accounts the opposite of a cat person but holy hell this thing is cute.
If you were a fan of the beloved Comedy Central sketch show bearing their names, Key and Peele are likely to win you over all over again. Key especially is provided an opportunity to shine, transforming Clarence from a stuck-up dad with a George Michael obsession to a ruthless gangster (also obsessed with George Michael, making for one of Keanu‘s best running gags) with charisma to spare. The easy going nature of the central cast, including the talented Tiffany Haddish as Hi-C, potential love interest and secret holder, makes the movie breeze by at a nice clip, only slowing down for those priceless/wordless reaction shots from our titular creature*. That said, there are a couple of sorely underdeveloped subplots that tend to distract. (What is Rob Huebel even doing in this?) Coherency isn’t the intention here, though, and neither was that pun. I look forward to a fast reunion between Key, Peele, Atencio, and god help us, li’l Keanu.
*the voice cameo rumor is blessedly true!