With an endearingly silly plot, executed with just the right amount of irony and faithfulness to the genre it's spoofing, Keanu proves to be a fairly fun watch.
In the midst of the cinematic tidal wave of summer blockbusters rushing to cinemas at the moment, a film about two guys who embark on an epic rescue mission to retrieve their beloved kitty cat might not be the first film on your watch-list. However, despite it’s relative obscurity at the box office, Keanu is an endearingly silly and ironic comedy that is well worth hunting down at your local multiplex.
Starring Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key, the film follows two cousins – Rell and Clarence – who become embroiled in the criminal exploits of a dangerous, drug-dealing gang during their attempts to rescue Rell’s new kitten, Keanu – who was kidnapped during the gang’s accidental raid of Rell’s house. Naturally, the sight of these two suburban middle-class men hopelessly imitating and interacting with the ruthless gangster attitudes of the various gang members is a thing of great joy and humour.
The juxtaposition between the black stereotype of gun-wielding, attitude-heavy gangsters with Key’s effeminate suburban househusband is particularly hilarious. Poking fun at stereotypes and racial attitudes, the two leads toy with these clichés with a gumptious sense of irony. Key is perhaps the stand-out star of the film, receiving the most laughs with his slightly camp, straight-collar performance. A scene in which Key enthusiastically lip syncs to George Michael’s ‘Faith’ in a car full of cutthroat gangsters is especially funny.
Playing on the current trend of musical nostalgia currently circulating around Hollywood in films like Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond, the film focuses a lot of it’s funniest content on the works of George Michael. In a scene in which Key’s character is tripping on a powerful drug bemusingly named ‘Holy Shit’, there is a brilliant dream sequence in which Clarence imagines himself to be in Michael’s infamous ‘Faith’ video. As Clarence begins to come down from the high, the sequence changes to a more austere spoof of The Matrix, in which Keanu the kitten (voiced in the sequence by the actual Keanu Reeves) initiates a deep conversation about ‘excellence’. The various cultural and film references throughout the film add a nice comic touch to the film’s action plot.
Speaking of Keanu, the feline focus of the film is as cute as you would imagine, though for certain sequences in the film, it is abundantly clear that it’s a CGI cat that has been superimposed into the scene. Because of the film’s ironic spoof nature however, this isn’t as big a problem as it could be. The film also features some fun cameos from the likes of Anna Faris and Luiz Guzman, who each play hyperbolic fictional versions of themselves.
Though the comedy is fairly fast-paced and occasionally laugh-out-loud, there are certain plot points within the movie that decrease the momentum. The romantic tension between Rell and female gang member Hi-C for instance, fails to connect as seamlessly with the comic action of the rest of the film. The attention to detail with which the spoof action of the film was realised is rather impressive though and adds to the film’s amusingly sardonic dynamic.
Overall, Keanu is a more than decent comedy with a joyously silly premise and an intensely charismatic performance by Keegan Michael-Key. Pair all that with the presence an adorable kitten and you’re guaranteed to leave the cinema with a smile on your face.
Keanu (2016), directed by Peter Atencio, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 15.