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Keanu Movie Review

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Keanu is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

Keanu (2016) movie poster Keanu

Theatrical Release: April 29, 2016 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Peter Atencio / Writers: Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens

Cast: Jordan Peele (Rell Williams/Tectonic/Oil Dresden), Keegan-Michael Key (Clarence Goobril/Shark Tank/Smoke Dresden), Tiffany Haddish (Hi-C), Method Man (Cheddar), Darrell Britt-Gibson (Trunk), Jason Mitchell (Bud), Jamar Malachi Neighbors (Stitches), Luis Guzmán (Bacon), Will Forte (Hulka), Nia Long (Hannah), Rob Huebel (Spencer), Madison Wolfe (Alexis), Jordyn A. Davis (Belle), Jordyn A. Davis (Donnie), Brittany Semour (Rachel), Anna Faris (Herself - uncredited), Keanu Reeves (voice of Keanu - uncredited)

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After years of small roles in comedy films, "MADtv" alumni Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele see their work on the popular Comedy Central sketch comedy series "Key & Peele" pay off in the form of their first feature vehicle.
Keanu is advertised as being "from the visionary minds of Key & Peele", which seems somewhat true. Peele co-wrote it with "K&P" contributor Alex Rubens and both stars also serve as producers.

The simple premise of the film is that milquetoast team builder Clarence (Key) and his stoner/slob cousin Rell (Peele) find themselves thrown into Los Angeles' gang world. We open in a church where drugs are manufactured for some reason by people in their underwear. That Latino gang headquarters is attacked by the Allentown Brothers, two silent, deadly alien-like Neanderthals (also Key and Peele, just barely recognizable in heavy make-up). In this lethal scene where bullets whir left and right, an adorable kitten who makes it out unscathed, but not before winning the affection of those ice-veined Allentown Brothers.

That photogenic little kitty, a meowy gray tabby, escapes the crime scene and runs around L.A., eventually winding up on the doorstep of Rell on a day in which he is broken up about a fresh break-up. Two weeks later, Rell and the kitten he has named Keanu are inseparable. Rell has been photographing the cat in recreations of famous movies (which, like the posters on his wall, all happen to hail from distributor Warner Bros. Pictures).

Rell Williams (Jordan Peele) and Clarence Goobril (Keegan-Michael Key) are out of their league trying to retrieve a kitten from a gang in "Keanu."

On a weekend when Clarence's wife and daughter are away on a trip with another family, he and Rell's male bonding time comes to a halt when Rell's messy bachelor pad has been broken into and Keanu is missing. On a tip from neighbor/drug dealer Hulka (an amusingly committed and dreadlocked Will Forte), the two trace the missing feline to the 17th Street Blips, a gang of Blood and Crypt cast-offs based out of a seedy strip club.

Clarence and Rell must reinvent themselves to blend in, adopting deep voices and punctuating their sentences with the N-word and other obscenities. That is the big running joke of Keanu and it surprisingly does not get old. The Blips' Mortal Kombat-playing head honcho Cheddar (Method Man, on point) inexplicably mistakes the two neatly-dressed outsiders for the Allentown Brothers and agrees to give them his new gangster cat, Keanu (who he has renamed New Jack Kitty). They just have to make a drug run with some Blips and impart some of their wisdom on them.

Posing as an Allentown Brother, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) schools the Blips on George Michael as they pass time before making a getaway.

You kind of expect Keanu to devolve into violence and vulgarity in this substantial central stretch of the film and there are some brushes with both, but it mostly remains witty and sharp. The one exception is a dead on arrival scene involving Anna Faris as a buyer of the Blips' potent new drug. It's almost, but not quite, saved by the revelation that Faris is playing herself.

Obviously, the straight-laced guys are out of their league, but they somehow get by on dumb luck and innocent charm.
They are pushed to their limits, driven always by the desire to reunite with that lovable little kitten who steals every scene he's in.

Keanu is a promising "debut" for these two seasoned comedy vets. Key especially delights on a consistent basis, having both a convincing nerd act and a believable gangster voice down pat. The material reminded me of Malibu's Most Wanted, the profitable 2003 Jamie Kennedy movie, with the protagonists acting based on their media-shaped knowledge of gang culture. The laughs are frequent and the targets varied. The film's most whimsical moment finds a tripping Clarence making his way into George Michael's "Faith" music video (Michael's music is humorously and extensively celebrated in a way that any past-prime musician can only dream of) and Keanu talking in the not so identifiable voice of Keanu Reeves with wisdom derived entirely from Keanu Reeves movies. Keanu pays tribute not only to the John Wick star but to a host of urban crime movies. It's all in good fun, held together by a passable plot, plenty of humor, and the seven cute kitties who share the title role.

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Related Reviews:
Keanu (Blu-ray)
Key & Peele: Season 1 | Now in Theaters: Everybody Wants Some!! • The Jungle Book
Keegan-Michael Key: Hell Baby • Reno 911! The Complete Series • Tomorrowland • Just Go With It • Horrible Bosses 2
Jordan Peele: Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 • Workaholics: Season Three
Method Man: The Cobbler • The Sitter | Will Forte: Nebraska • Don Verdean | Jason Mitchell: Straight Outta Compton

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Reviewed April 29, 2016.



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