Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: Keanu

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
I'll admit: I'm only moderately familiar with the work of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (yes, I've seen Luther, the anger translator), but if "Keanu," their first film as lead roles, is an indication, I'd say they are a pretty funny and talented pair.

The film isn't quite the funniest thing you'll ever see, which is what I'd been led to believe it might be by the high praise bestowed on their television work - alas, my TV watching is primarily dramas - but it's still funnier than most Hollywood comedies and there's a certain sweetness between the lead characters and the titular cat that goes a long way.

The picture opens with a violent shootout during which a group of Latino gangsters is gunned down by two particularly frightening guys with long hair in a warehouse. The adorable tiny kitten we'll come to know as Keanu escapes the scene and winds up on the doorstep of Rell (Peele), who is lying on his couch depressed after having been dumped by his girlfriend. But the appearance of the cat seems to revive him and, moments later, he has a new lease on life, which is instantly noticed by his cousin and best pal Clarence (Key), a buttoned up suburbs father and husband who has a fixation on George Michael.

But shortly after a night out at the movies a few weeks later, they return to Rell's house to find that it has been broken into and Keanu has been snatched. Through some investigating, they learn that a local drug selling outfit known as the Blips - the rejects from the Bloods and Crips - are responsible for the break-in after confusing Rell's house with that of a local dealer.

Rell and Clarence unbelievably - but humorously - infiltrate the gang by pretending to be two hard core gangster types - although they are both softies who look like preppies - and they are mistaken for the fearsome duo responsible for the shootout that opens the film. They gladly take the roles in order to steal back the cat, but end up being asked by the gang's leader (Method Man) to school his minions on the criminal life. The scenes that follow are among the most clever in the film and I like how eager some of the gang members are to engage in the team building that Clarence is offering.

There are some truly funny sequences along the way - especially an early one during which Rell nervously attempts to get Clarence to not order a glass of wine at the gang's bar and another when Clarence surprises everyone with a backflip that I couldn't properly describe here if I tried.

Some other jokes are carried on a little too long. There's only so much mileage to be had out of Rell and Clarence's put-on gangsta voices and the ongoing joke involving Clarence's obsession with George Michael starts out funny, but eventually gets a little tiresome. Also, the romantic interests for both characters - Clarence's out-of-town wife and Rell's budding relationship with a female gang member - feel a bit forced.

That being said, "Keanu" is a fun movie and Key and Peele both have the types of personalities with whom it's nice to spend time. There's a fair amount of violence and other wild behavior during the picture, but the camaraderie between the duo as well as Rell's love for that adorable kitten give it a light touch. Plus, it's funnier than any other recent film I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, and Keanu Reeves makes an appearance - well, of sorts. So there's that.

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