Cinematic Releases: Keanu

cat movie
Mike Stec jumps in the litter box for Keanu. 

Don't you touch that!
Keanu could have been a lot of things.  By its title and basic premise alone it could have just been a 100-minute John Wick joke.  As a starring vehicle for former Comedy Central sketch comedy stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, it could have been either one overlong sketch or a few sketches awkwardly tied together.  Or it could have been another Wayans brothers-style spoof of "gangsta" movies.  But Keanu is never completely any of these movies, which is why it is a successful action-comedy in its own right, and one of the funniest movies of the year so far.

Keanu has Key and Peele playing suburban friends—Clarence (Key) the straight-laced, George Michael-obsessed suburban dad, Rell (Peele) a broken man reeling from a tough breakup—whose lives are turned upside down by an adorable kitten that Rell names Keanu.  When Keanu is kidnapped (kitten-napped?), the men quickly find themselves in over their heads, mixed up with a dangerous drug dealer (Method Man), in order to save the kitten they love.  And truthfully, it's hard not to love Keanu.  Played by seven real kittens—and no CGI--the kitten naturally steals every scene he appears in, just by doing the usual cute things that kittens do.

As for Key and Peele, it's their natural chemistry that makes the whole thing work.  Both have done well in their many small supporting roles in films, but they rise to the challenge in their first starring roles.  They effortlessly carry the film together, playing off of each other brilliantly and turning what could have easily been two-dimensional sketch comedy tropes into fully-formed and relatable characters.  The film, co-written by Peele, plays to both actors' strengths and provides quite a showcase for their comedic talents.  Keanu aims high and ultimately impresses.

Damn straight. I'm the flyest, dopest ass cat in the world. 

Some of the jokes in Keanu don’t quite hit as intended, and it does occasionally dip into cliches.  But overall Keanu delivers the goods.  It's a violent but hilarious R-rated action comedy that gets a lot of things right thanks to great writing and performances from its two stars.  Keanu may have set the bar high for future Key and Peele film collaborations, but it's hard to imagine that they couldn't at lease create something equally entertaining.  Until we see what the future holds, we still have the hilarious, fun, and downright adorable Keanu.

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-Mike Stec