SXSW 2016: “Keanu” Review: This kitty delivers.
Keanu is the first big screen pairing of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the comedic duo best known for their television series Key and Peele on Comedy Central. While I have seen a few episodes of their show, I would in no way consider myself “knowledgeable” about their brand of humor. When I first saw the trailer for Keanu, I was shocked that I actually found funny. It seemed like the film was going to be a parody of the action flicks with a specific focus on the Keanu Reeves film, John Wick.
I grew up watching parody films and loved them so much in the 80s and 90s. However, over the past decade or so Hollywood has completely destroyed the genre. Thanks to films that star Marlon Wayans and those two directors who I dare not name, the parody genre has become the toilet paper of Hollywood. As much as I hate to say it, I was weary about Keanu due to the fact that it seemed like a parody film. I went into the World Premiere screening at SXSW with great hope but also couldn’t help but feel a bit worried.
Key and Peele opened the World Premiere of the “Work in Progress” screening of Keanu by telling the audience that we were the first people to see the film and to “just have fun with it.” I am very pleased to announce that Keanu delivers the laughs and in a big way that doesn’t rely on humor that is infantile but instead clever.
Keanu opens up on a shoot ‘em up scene involving the Allentown gang and follows a little kitten that is trying to escape while avoiding being shot. The cat eventually makes his way to Rell (Peele) who is dealing with a breakup and is looking for a distraction. Rell instantly bonds with the kitten and names it Keanu. Later that day, Rell ‘s best friend Clarence (Key) comes over to start their guy’s weekend. The two friends head to Hollywood to see the latest Liam Neeson flick to kick the festivities.
When they return home to Rell’s apartment, they learn that the apartment has been burglarized. Clarence and Rell rummage through the apartment to try to find Keanu but alas he is nowhere to be found. The two soon learn that the gang known as the Blips has kidnapped Keanu. Determined to get Keanu back, Rell convinces Clarence to embark on this dangerous journey to get back the kitty that stole his heart.
Keanu is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the parody genre. It is loaded with humor that ranges from incredibly silly to underlying jokes that I think will go over some audience members’ heads. There are a ton of film references that die hard film fans will really appreciate. Keanu manages to pokes fun at action movie clichés but never goes overboard with them. It also takes a jab at adorable kitten videos.
There is really a lot to appreciate when it comes to the humor throughout the film. There is some language and some nudity but nothing too crude or infantile. I was impressed that this film didn’t seem to follow so many modern comedies by relying on gross out humor and non-stop f- bombs to sell it. There are some great surprise cameos in this film and one scene in particular with a certain actress that made me laugh incredibly hard.
The reason why Keanu works so well is really a combination of Key and Peele chemistry and interaction but also the supporting cast, writing, and direction. This is one of this comedy films that I don’t believe you have to be a fan of Key and Peele’s show to appreciate it. It is really a comedy that works for many different audiences because it’s genuinely funny. There is breaking down of stereotypes and even references to George Michael that any 80s music fan will definitely appreciate.
The only negative thing I have to say about Keanu is that near the end it loses a bit of steam and drags a bit. This isn’t even the actual ending but probably about 10 minutes of the final act that felt as though it could be trimmed. I don’t recall the runtime but I think its longer than 90 minutes which I have to admit seems like the perfect runtime for parody films.
All in all, I really dug Keanu and I cannot wait to see it again when it’s released in theaters. This is a fun time at the movies and one that I think audiences should just go into and have fun. The writing never takes itself seriously and everyone just looks as though they are having fun being part of this film. Keanu is one of those rare comedies that I look forward to revisiting with friends repeatedly.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Keanu is an 8 out of 10.