Director: Peter Atencio
Cast: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Jason Mitchell, Luis Guzman, Nia Long, Will Forte
Release Date: April 29th, 2016
If you aren’t already a fan of comedians Key and Peele (who rose to stardom on the Comedy Central show of the same name), visit this the new comedy Keanu serves as a grand introduction. The film lets the duo revel in one-liners and great set-ups that showcase their undeniable comedic talents. Featuring a uniquely boisterous plot — the comedy has both an adorable little beloved kitten and more violence and profanity than you would expect — the film manages to blend all of its disparate elements together while keeping viewers delightfully entertained.
Jordan Peele stars as Rell Williams, what is ed a carefree young man who was recently dumped by his girlfriend. His sadness is palpable. When he calls his best friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), price who privately celebrates the break-up, Rell feels like his life has been shattered. Fortunately for him, that changes when a tiny kitten he names Keanu arrives on his doorstep.
Pet owners can empathize with what happens next. Rell finds a beautiful kinship with Keanu and that relationship puts his life back on course to the point where he’s even excited about his work again. The affection between Rell and Keanu is established quickly but effectively, ensuring that Rell’s willingness to do anything for Keanu feels genuine as the story continues.
After a gang led by a vicious Kingpin nicknamed Cheddar (Method Man) accidentally robs the wrong house, Keanu is kidnapped. Rell then teams up with the straight-laced family man Clarence to rescue the cat from the dangerous gang. Of course, their task isn’t easy and after the duo use fake identities, Cheddar enlists them for a dangerous job that neither of the two naive leads is prepared for.
Much of the film’s humor derives from the fish-out-of-water scenarios they find themselves in.
One such scene shows Clarence leading a team-building exercise for the gang members he’s trying to lead on a mission. As a corporate team builder, Clarence is used to getting to know his employees but when he asks the gang members questions about their lives, he gets some hilarious results. One criminal even uses the opportunity to list some of his most nefarious deeds, a response that Rell and Clarence are clearly frightened by.
Later on, Clarence is forced to elaborate on his sentimental musical collection leading to an earnest and unforgettable discussion about the merits of George Michael.
The concept here wouldn’t work at all though if people didn’t buy into Rell’s love for his cat. In fact, in the film’s lengthy second chapter, the cat is off-screen for much of it so that affection needs to be so established that viewers continue to remember it even in the midst of the carnage. Fortunately though, even in the movie’s middle section, the character still shows off his sensitive side. Despite the fact that he can act like a tough guy for show, the screenwriters never let Rell’s soft side stray too far off the screen with his budding friendship with the tough-talking Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish) keeping the character grounded even in the midst of chaos.
Directed by Peter Atencio and co-written by Peele and Alex Rubens (all of whom collaborated on the successful Key and Peele sketch show), the comedy is a risk-taking venture that actually works far better than expected. It helps that Key and Peele have developed a strong friendship offscreen and it also helps that the supporting cast (which includes Luis Guzman and Will Forte) are game for this profane, violent but ultimately worthwhile endeavor.
Review by: John Hanlon