The creators of one of the funniest sketch comedy shows putting out a movie about a gangster plot to find an adorable kitten named after Keanu Reeves should be a can’t-miss idea.
Jordan Peele is Rell Williams, and the movie opens with him sobbing on his couch after a recent breakup. He reaches out to his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), an uptight OCD white guy in a black man’s body. Rell is brought out of his funk by the arrival of an adorable little kitten he names Keanu. It turns out the cat belongs to a menacing drug dealer and is later stolen by another menacing drug dealer, setting into motion the rest of plot, which is the quest to find Keanu.
That kind of journey is a wonderful excuse to introduce Key and Peele into all kinds of situations where they can be as hilarious as we know they can be. These guys have proven on their sketch show that they are comic geniuses. But there are few flashes of that brilliance in Keanu.
The movie becomes a one-joke pony. These are black guys, who act and talk like white guys, who are forced to act and talk like the cartoon, thug version of black guys from rap videos. And there’s no doubt there are many funny scenes. Key’s turn-on-a-dime transformation from uptight Clarence to streetwise drug dealer Shark Tank will make you laugh, but that’s the single, recurring punchline of the whole movie. These soft black guys are acting like hard black guys. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We’ve even seen this premise before, in Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003), a movie that’s actually sillier than Keanu, but achieves a level of social commentary missing here. In that movie, Jamie Kennedy is playing a white kid appropriating black urban culture, and Taye Diggs is a Julliard-trained actor playing the part of street thug. The performances are large and hilarious and say something about whites, blacks, and how they relate to one another.
There isn’t any deeper commentary like that in Keanu. It’s just Key and Peele as a couple of fish out of water in various awkward and funny situations. And that still makes for an enjoyable movie. But these guys are so brilliant, Keanu leaves you wanting more and hoping you get it in a second Key and Peele movie.
|Starring||Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele,|
|Writer||Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens|
|Production||New Line Cinema, Principato-Young Entertainment|