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Review - Keanu

By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2016 11:01PM

Keanu (2016) Dir. Peter Atencio

This new action comedy film involving a gangland rivalry and a ridiculously cute kitten called Keanu is one of the stranger concepts to have been green-lit for 2016. Starring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key (two US comedians with their own sketch show, who have barely been heard of in the UK) Keanu is a hilarious piece of fluff and has the honour of being one of the first ‘pure’ comedies of the year to genuinely make me laugh. And on many occasions.

The story follows Rell (Peele) who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and finds a cat on his doorstep who he adopts and names Keanu. Rell's cousin Clarence (Key) takes him out to cheer him up but they return to find his house ransacked and the kitten missing. Believing a gang mistook his house for his drug-dealing neighbour, Rell heads to the gang’s hideout with Clarence in tow and here they are mistaken for the violent Allentown boys – a duo with a sadistic reputation. Going along with this case of mistaken identity (they rename themselves "Tectonic" and "Shark Tank") the film spins off into a series of ever-deeper cross-wired scenes as they get further out of their depth.

In their efforts to get Keanu back, most of the film’s comedy stems from the suburban duo’s attempts at being “gangstas” and although it could have been a simple role-reversal set up, the supporting characters of gang leader Cheddar (played well by Method Man) and feisty Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish) throw in added conflict as they argue, fight and clash on the city streets.

The comedy rarely plays it safe – and I don’t mean the gross-out angle of the Frat pack/Apatow crowd – with cleverly written and inventive scenes involving team-building exercises and the music of George Michael. As Keanu flips between owners (re-named ‘Iglesias’ and ‘New Jack’ at points) the film uses its skit-based formula well to get in plenty of jokes on the journey. Some added action, a comical car chase and Keanu’s cuteness all keep the fish-out-of-water concept fresh and if we’re going on solid laughs, this could be the best comedy of the year so far.

Made with a lot of sincerity, and although it takes few narrative risks, the comedy duo take plenty of content risks by avoiding the clichés of modern US comedies and surround themselves with a supporting cast who play their mostly-straight roles well.

My favourite comedies over the last few years have rarely originated from the USA with their focus on “improv” and poor scripts/cinematography (see Edgar Wright for how to give comedy more cinematic “zing”) but this film is filled with affection and I couldn’t but help warm to that.

Like The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, it seems the best traditional American comedies are the ones with the most heart and Keanu has plenty of that making its silly premise a winner in all the best ways.


Midlands Movies Mike

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