Review: Keanu 

Keanu is silly and stupid … but it’s also hilarious.

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Keanu is silly and stupid ... but it's also hilarious.

The film marks Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s jump to the big screen. Of course, the duo is known for the Comedy Central sketch comedy show, Key and Peele. Whether they are serving as President Obama’s “anger translators” or geeking out over Liam Neeson’s action movies, these guys are a joy to watch. Those are the best kinds of comedians — the ones who can put a smile on your face in any situation. Like your best friends, they send a tingle of comfort up your spine as soon as you see them.

Keanu finds them as two best friends on polar opposite ends of the spectrum. Clarence (Key) is a square, constantly hiding behind the toothy smile that his corporate job trains him to maintain. Rell (Peele) hides his insecurity behind a bohemian lifestyle, lounging around a house littered with movie posters and marijuana.

When Rell’s girlfriend dumps him, he finds solace in the paws of the cutest kitten on Earth. Of course, he names him Keanu. “It means ‘cool breeze’ in Hawaiian or something,” he says. (We all know what it really means — KEANU REEVES!)

Naturally, Keanu is kidnapped by drug dealers. Rather than just moving on with their lives, Rell and Clarence decide to infiltrate the Los Angeles underworld in search of the kitty. It’s a classic comedic premise — sensitive guys forced to feign macho confidence.

Rell and Clarence pretend to be “gangstas,” naming themselves Tectonic and Shark Tank. The humor lies in how their innocence seeps through this façade. For example, Clarence slips back into corporate team-building mode before a drug run, asking the dealers to introduce themselves and tell two fun facts so everyone knows each other better. This scene exhibits the major strength of Key and Peele — their ability to put a wholesome spin on harsh settings.

Key and Peele take what could be considered offensive and make it oddly endearing. For example, much of the film revolves around their racial identities and whether they “fit in.”

“You sound like Richard Pryor’s impression of a white man,” Rell tells Clarence, urging him to adopt a more stereotypical appearance of Black masculinity as they search the seedy streets of Los Angeles.

The film introduces them as nerdy Black men who “act white,” and it puts them in a situation where they have to act stereotypically Black. Maybe this is offensive, but Key and Peele pull it off. Maybe that’s because their innocence shines through. None of their humor seems cynical or mean-spirited. Again, like your best friends, their hearts always seem to be in the right place, even when they are poking fun at you.

Yes, Keanu gets a little tiresome, especially as the two main characters plumb deeper and deeper into depravity to find the titular cat. But the film is ultimately about more than a kitty. It’s about the lengths people are willing to go for friends. It’s the best kind of comedy — humor with heart.


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Sam Watermeier

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