Keanu – 2016

Director Peter Atencio
Screenplay by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens
Starring Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Method Man, Tiffany Haddish, Luis Guzmán, Nia Long, Will Forte, Jason Mitchell, Rob Huebel

I’ve tried keep up with Key and Peele. It’s alright, but I haven’t seen anything that kept me going back consistently. The first time I saw the commercial for Keanu, however, I knew we were in for something special. Absurdist comedy is hard to pull off. There are far more MacGrubers out there than there are Anchormans. It’s really hard to drag a sketch comedy out too, especially when the sketch makes its debut as a film. But it’s a kitten. How can one turn down a kitten?

Poor little Iglesias. As the baby cat of the minor boss Diaz, he scrambles at the conclusion of a massive gunfight brought on by the Allentown Boys. They kill Diaz last, after kissing the little kitten. Then, by the miracle of being at the start of the story, he escapes while the last blood is spilled and makes his way through much of Los Angeles until he ends up on Rell’s (Peele) doorstep.

Rell is depressed, after a breakup. His cousin Clarence (Key) has arrived to cheer him up. He finds Rell is out of his funk and back to doing what he loves: photography. The photos are varying poses of his new cat, now called Keanu, in movie scenes. As if we needed more reasons to love this little kitty.

Well, for reasons that don’t need to be explained, the cat is absconded. Rell and Clarence try the police, but all they get from them is a blanket. They have to give the blanket back, too. So guess who has to go into the drug underworld to get their cat back?

There are many story paths that feel bound to cliche in Keanu. All I can say is most of them are pleasantly surprising. We get to see a lot of crap we’ve seen in other fish out of water stories, but Peele and co-writer Rubens are too smart to let the viewer step on the same rakes we’re used to seeing in other films.

There is nothing here I want to see again, other than that damned adorable cat. There is a little too much inconsequential violence to become a comedy classic, but it’s definitely worth a look for the older kids in the family. It’s easy to appreciate the comedy duo taking an unexpected first step for their first feature film. The cost of failure is not much. The benefit of breaking slightly ahead like they do means they likely will get another shot.

(*** out of *****)

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