Keanu (2016)

2016 SXSW Film Festival

keanu poster

After the unfortunate ending to their sketch comedy show Key & Peele, fans of the show shouldn’t worry because the two have been up to something in their off-time. Collaborating with director Peter Atencio, the man responsible for the direction of many of their sketches, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele present their first feature-length film, Keanu, about a cat gone missing and the plot the two hatch in order to get it back. As you no doubt expected, this film is often hilarious and works incredibly well thanks to the comfortability and familiarity the two stars share. It’s not unlike some of their sketches in the sense that bits lose steam the longer they’re stretched, but the film offers more than enough hardy laughs to keep you energized and engaged.

Isn't he just the cutest?
Isn’t he just the cutest?

Clarence (Key) has always been a fan of blasting George Michael as he cruises down the suburbs with his tucked-in shirt and minivan to boot. He’s a fairly normal man with a wife and daughter, though his wife believes that he needs to start doing things for him, rather than for others. As his wife and daughter go to spend the weekend away, his cousin Rel (Peele) is in shambles after a recent breakup. That is, until a tiny kitty arrives on his doorstep and fills his heart with love and abundant joy. All seems well for these mild-mannered men, until they return to Rel’s house to find Keanu (the cat) missing due to a drug altercation with a neighbor next door. Putting on their best gangster act, the two attempt to get Keanu back, leading them down a path neither are too keen to follow, but don’t entirely loathe either.

Just as with their sketches, the best and funniest moments erupt from the natural energy the two draw from one another. They’ve been friends and partners in crime for years now and it’s evident in the micro-interactions and reactions they share. Affecting a deeper “black voice” and pretending to be the gangsters they’re not, the two come up with some goofy personas and watching them attempt to drop their suburban lifestyle is immensely funny. Every step of the way, Keegan Michael Key is elevating his voice and his actions, opposite of Peele who’s toning things down and playing it cool. If you’ve seen their A-Capella sketch, you know a bit about what you’re getting into. These guys have so much fun playing with different “tough” personalities and watching them adapt to the gangster lifestyle is ridiculous fun.

I'm not sure they're aware of what they're getting into.
I’m not sure they’re aware of what they’re getting into.

In regards to the feline subject of all their troubles, Keanu is an extremely cute cat that’s well worth the rescue. The audience was full of affectionate “awws” anytime the kitten took to the screen and usually, something adorable and awesome follows. The film is billed as an action-comedy and that’s spot on, as the duo provide their take on the unlikely buddies turned badass heroes. Maybe they’re not tall that badass, but their humor balances out the large amount of violence scaring and surrounding them. The action looks great, the violence is bloody awesome, and a majority of the laughs hit their mark.

For a first time feature, Keanu does a lot of things really well and keeping the audience involved is a huge part of that. As is the case with some of their sketches and other work-in-progress films, some of their bits just aren’t all that funny, or they end up chewing up a considerable amount of time in this 90-minute film. You could easily shave 15 minutes off the film and it would play much better start to finish, as the middle of the film becomes rather repetitive and feels more like filler. As this was a work-in-progress screening, some things may be changed and if they look in the right places, this film has the potential to be a tight, very enjoyable comedy (not that it already isn’t).

Kenau is going to play extremely well with any fan of the show and those who haven’t a clue who these two geniuses are. It’s not a perfect comedy and you’re not going to be laughing as wildly as you may expect, but the humor is spot-on and it makes for a great film to see with a crowd. I really hope that this is the start of something new for these two, as they have what it takes to conquer the silver screen and expand the comedic groups we’ve come to know and love over the years. Key & Peele will live on and this film is a great step in an exciting direction for the both of them, so make sure you don’t miss this!

Keanu Trailer

4 / 5 stars     

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