Keanu movie review – hardly a catastrophe

Keanu is fun big screen showcase for Key and Peele

Keanu isn’t going to click for everyone. A movie centered on drug dealers and a pair of suburbanites vying for a stolen kitten is one of the year’s most out there premises. For those willing to go along with its goofiness and not think too hard, Keanu is a pleasant and frequently hilarious surprise.

Keanu movie - Keanu posing

After putting in cameos in other movies, Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele shine in the spotlight in their first feature film. The main question is what took the Key and Peele stars so long to get to the big screen?

Crushed after his girlfriend breaks up with him, Rell’s (Peele) life takes a turn for the better when a stray kitten winds up at his doorstep. It’s not hard to see why Rell falls for the kitten he names Keanu. The little scene-stealer would make even the most ardent dog lover reconsider their stance. Even Rell’s best friend, Clarence (Key) is a fan. And it helps that Rell has a blast re-enacting iconic movie moments with Keanu for his calendar.

Keanu movie - Key, Jason Mitchell, Darrell Britt-Gibson and Jamar Malachi Neighbors

Unbeknownst to Rell, Keanu used to belong to a drug kingpin who was assassinated by a pair of silent hitmen that took an immediate liking to Keanu and will do anything to get him back. With Clarence’s wife (Nia Long) out for the weekend, Rell and Clarence prepare for a wild weekend that takes a decidedly unpredictable turn once Keanu is stolen by drug lord Cheddar (Method Man).

The premise almost seems like a project pitched to Martin Lawrence at the height of his headlining career right down to fellow 90s stars Nia Long and Method Man in supporting roles, but it works due to Key and Peele’s genuine camaraderie and fearlessness.

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Method Man remains one of hip hop’s more underrated crossover performers. He’s not as prolific as an Ice Cube, Will Smith or Ice-T, but his charisma is so hard to deny that even as the film’s main villain he remains incredibly likable.

Mistaken for the hitmen, Clarence and Rell agree to help Cheddar’s gang — Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), Trunk (Darrell Britt-Gibson), Bud (Straight Outta Compton’s Jason Mitchell) and Stitches (Jamar Malachi Neighbors) – become better enforcers and make a couple of drug runs in exchange for Keanu. Mitchell again proved an intriguing presence and I’m looking forward to his next project while Haddish proved a welcome surprise.

Keanu movie - Jason Mitchell, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Key and Peele

Key and Peele get the biggest laughs with Clarence and Rell’s ridiculous impression of hardcore gangbangers both in getting on each other for their commitment to the roles and imparting suburban wisdom on Cheddar’s gang.

Given the constant references and frequent use of the Faith soundtrack, George Michael’s ‘cameo’ was a bit of a letdown. I was hoping more for a Ted payoff where Sam Jones actually showed up to spoof the Flash Gordon movie the characters held in such high esteem. Thankfully that scene is salvaged by a clever uncredited performance by Keanu’s namesake.

The script, co-written by Peele and longtime Key and Peele writer Alex Rubens, hits more often than it misfires. Surprisingly, the normally reliable Will Forte’s cameo as a weed dealer is far more annoying than funny. Some scenes start strong and fade in the end, but Key and Peele director Peter Atencio knows how to get the most out of his stars for maximum laughs.

At 98 minutes, Keanu comes close to wearing out its welcome, but a ridiculous and enjoyable final act ensures the film finishes strong. Keanu is a rare mistaken identity/action comedy that will not only hold up, but be better upon repeated viewings. This kitten-napping action buddy comedy is a genre to itself, which perfectly fits its stars.

Keanu movie - Clarence, Rel and Keanu

Rating: 8 out of 10


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