Friday, April 29, 2016
The skit comedy of Keanu isn't anything new, but its pieces conspire to conspicuously entertain.
Review by Matt CummingsAs someone who's never seen Comedy Central's Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the duo's big screen debut in Keanu would seem like a breath of fresh air. Luckily, their arrival is propped up by the best-looking kitten in a film - perhaps ever - and some genuinely funny sketch comedy. After learning that his girlfriend has dumped him, Rell (Peele) finds his world turned upside down. All he has now is his world of movies and marijuana, when his straight-laced cousin Clarence (Key) calls to offer his condolences. Meanwhile across town, a local drug lord and his lair are shot to pieces by the enigmatic Allentown Boys, leading its only survivor - an adorable kitten - to seek a new owner. Eventually, he finds a new home with the smitten Rell, who thinks it's a match made in heaven. Donning him Keanu, human and kitty form an instant bond, that is until one night Rell returns to find his home ransacked and the cat gone. They learn that a local gang (led by Rapper Method Man) have taken the cat and renamed him New Jack. But what everyone doesn't realize is that the cute kitty is on the mind of those Allentown Boys as well, and soon all three groups violently vie for the adoration of LA's newest addition. Keanu offers just enough newness in terms of its leads, but the way the pieces are assembled makes it a hilariously entertaining affair. And then you add the titular cat to things and Keanu's cuteness factor goes up immeasurably, even when the story begins to lose steam; just add the little furball and everything's OK. We haven't seen felines this front and center since The Lion King, but this is definitely not Simba. Director Peter Atencio actually gives little guy plenty of realistic action - he never looks CGI as he runs from guns, broads, and gangsters, even though they desire his affection as well. He also lets the comedy duo do what they apparently do best: riff over the script while everyone tries their best to keep from laughing. Comedies like these can skip a lot of the universe building that a gritty drama can't escape. How Keanu and Rell come together would have been impossible anywhere else, but here we can chock it up to the efficient script without too much audience brouhaha. But it's not like the cat makes the movie, as we do laugh quite a bit here, thanks to the great brothers-out-of-water routine. They basically act like white folks, then turn on the gangster just before we feel the story slow again, as their alter-egos come out to play. It's not acting genius or anything, but it all works; again, there's a lot of 22 Jump Street here without feeling like a rip off of that material. And just like that romp, Keanu is definitely not made for kids; one of the two cameos definitely does naughty things, and there's a lot of drug use here as well. The unique part behind Keanu is the almost reverential treatment Singer George Michael is bestowed; there's an extended (and honestly lame) sequence where a drug-induced dream leads to a Fresh Prince Carlton-esque dance-off, as well as a 101 session into Michael's solo library. The honor goes on one too many times, and as does happen with sketch comedy in films, Keanu tends to overstay its welcome. That doesn't mean you won't want more of it, just a little tuck here and there could have made it one of the best comedies in years. For now, it's just on the level of 2015's Spy. Keanu isn't built for long-term payoffs, and frankly it doesn't need to be. But you'll find yourself quoting lines from it for the next week ("Wordness to the Turdness!" comes to mind) while you wonder just how one kitten (or in this case, seven were used) could make a film so much fun to watch. We'll let you know how after we stop laughing. Keanu is rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity and has a runtime of 98 minutes. Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.