06th Jun2016

‘Keanu’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Jason Mitchell, Luis Guzman, Nia Long, Will Forte, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jamar Malachi Neighbors, Rob Huebel | Written by Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens | Directed by Peter Atencio

keanu-cast

Keanu sees TV’s “Key and Peele” star as Rell and Clarence respectively, two cousins who live in the city but are far from streetwise. After turning up on Rell’s dooorstep out of the blue, post Rell’s relationship break-up, the titular kitten Keanu is catnapped. Not one to rest on their laurels, and undoubtedly because Rell has become way too attached to the cat, the hopelessly straight-laced pair must impersonate ruthless killers in order to infiltrate a street gang and retrieve the purloined feline. But the incredibly adorable kitten becomes so coveted that the fight over his custody creates a gang war, forcing our two unwitting heroes to take the law into their own hands.

I’ll admit I was a little slow to the Key and Peele train, not discovering their awesome TV sketch show until its penultimate season and whilst the show was – a least for someone who didn’t get each and every reference – a bit hit and miss – though to be fair when the jokes did hit, they hit hard… But hell, even not being as hue a fan of the show as others, I couldn’t help but be intrigued to see the duo in a film as bizarre-sounding as Keanu: the story of two guys who will do ANYTHING to get back their kitten – which is why, even though on holiday, I paid the extortionate Canadian cinema prices to see the film!

Thankfully Key and Peele do not disappoint and whilst not every joke hits the mark, Keanu is still a solid laugh-filled comedy that defies its own absurdity. Yes, whilst the concept of the film may be off-putting (and obviously ridiculous) to some – after all, what grown men would get into so much trouble over a cat? A cat… But when you consider cats and dogs are replacing children in modern society (apparently a lot of families are now 1.1 children, down from the old-school average of 2.4 children years ago – cats and dogs taking place of kids!) the idea isn’t THAT bizarre. Well not as bizarre as two straight-laced black guys trying to act like to well-known gangsters/killers whilst listening to George Michael’s songs and trying not to sound too white!

And that’s the core of Keanu‘s jokes. Two black guys acting blacker than they actually are. It’s a trope that Key and Peele used to great effect in their TV series and it translates well to the big screen. And damn, if that titular cat isn’t the cutest too! But the real highlight? A brief drug-induced “dream sequence” featuring a cameo voice over that had the audience in stitches. Real laugh-out-loud stitches. The kind you don’t often see in cinemas these days – and that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Keanu is out now in the US/Canada. The film released in the UK on July 15th.

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