Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in Keanu (Warner Bros.)
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s successful Comedy Central show, “Key & Peele,” ended its five-season run last year after garnering them a Peabody Award and several Emmy nominations. The duo is back, this time on the big screen, in the upcoming comedy, Keanu.
In the film, Rell (Peele), after being dumped by his girlfriend, finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep. After a heartless thief steals the cat, Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Key) to help him retrieve it. They soon learn that a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has the animal, and he’ll only give it back if the two men agree to work for him. Armed with guns and a gangster attitude, it doesn’t take long for the hapless duo to land in big trouble.
I have to be honest: I went into the theater with low expectations. I thought Keanu would be just a two-hour version of those ubiquitous cat videos on YouTube that I rarely find funny. I had plans for later that evening, so I had already thought about leaving halfway through the screening. I’m pleased to say that I was very pleasantly surprised and was happy to stay until the credits rolled. Granted, I haven’t seen EVERY comedy in the last couple years, but I haven’t heard an audience laugh that hard and that much since This is the End.
Sure, Keanu is a subversive, escapist comedy, but it does have deeper, though subtle, layers. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly last year, Key stated that “This entire movie was basically the most expensive adorable-kitten video of all time. Overall it’s meant to satirize how pop culture paints masculinity and what it means to be African-American — and how many of us don’t fit into the mold expected of us.” All of us have, at one time or another, felt like we don’t quite fit into a neat, little category.
Early in the movie, Rell tells Clarence that he talks like Richard Pryor doing a white-man impression. Clarence’s obsession with George Michael is a running gag throughout Keanu. In one particularly hilarious scene, as Clarence waits in his minivan with a group of young gangsters, he introduces them to the music of George Michael. After he convinces them that George is African-American, it’s not long until they are sobbing while singing along to “Father Figure.”
Much of the action takes place in a strip club. In another running gag, the strip club is named Hot Party Vixens so its acronym is HPV. I know I’m a sucker for clever business names, but it’s about time a strip club named like that opened. HPV even inspired me to come up with my own strip club name: Sexy Topless Dancers (STD for short).
Lest I digress, the supporting cast more than holds its own. Anna Faris absolutely kills it playing a drugged-out version of herself. Will Forte is his usual funny self as a low-level pot dealer living with his mother. Though it might not be as funny without the context, Luis Guzmán’s line, “You bad driving bitch!” is one I’ve repeated many times in the last couple days.
Sure, Keanu doesn’t have any superheroes. It’s not a sequel – or a prequel. It’s not based on a comic book or graphic novel. It is something much rarer in today’s movie world: original. I guarantee you will laugh, and you will have a George Michael song stuck in your head for days. Excuse me while I listen to George Michael’s Faith album now.
In theaters April 29
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