osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Movie Review: Keanu

I'm a fan of Key & Peele, so when I heard they were teaming with an adorable kitten to make a movie, I decided it was a must see.

If you meet these qualifications, being a fan of Key and Peele and adorable kittens, then you will indeed love this movie. If you do not live these things, I feel very sorry for you. But see Keanu anyway, because you might discover you like Key & Peele.

Might be a little spolier-ish.

The basic plot synopsis is nothing new, but that is what makes it such excellent fodder for Key & Peele. It is the classic "buddies movie" with the "fish out of water" element that goes back to Laurel & Hardy. The basic plot can trace its way back to an old Dick Van Dyke movie called "Never A Dull Moment."

What makes a movie with a basic plot good rather than formulaic is the Twist. Key & Peele have their usual excellent chemistry, combined with their ability to undermine traditional tropes involving race in popular culture. We start with the central premise of the movie, that even the most hard core, toughest gangsters utterly melt in the presence of the most adorable kitten ever presented on screen. To quote one review:

"And then there's Keanu the kitten (or, rather, kittens, since several were used in the filming of the movie), who is seriously the cutest cat on the face of the planet. (Yes, the movie nods to the other, more famous Keanu.) You really do believe this tiny feline is the Helen of Troy of the cat world. Gang wars break out over him, and it is totally plausible. (At my screening, half the fun was in listening to an audience of full-grown adults melt in the presence of such adorableness.)"

And yes, Keanu really is that cute, although I still think Fluffbal was cuter when he was a kitten. But I digress.

In any event, Key plays Clarence, the uptight and sensible family man who is advised by his wife to actually relax and cut loose for one weekend while she is away with their daughter. As veteran moview watchers know, this is always the worst possible advice to give uptight people in comedies as it will invariably launch them on a hijinks filled adventure, especially if they have a friend who agrees.

Said friend is Peele, playing stoner/photgrapher Rell. Rell is distraught over his latest break up, a girlfriend who dumps him because he is wasting his life as a stoner. Enter Keanu, the most adorable kitten ever. Rell thinks Keanu is sent from Heaven to give him purpose. He becomes clean and sober and makes an adorable cat calander, bonding with little Keanu who adorably bonds right back.

Keanu, however, was not just any kitten. He escaped from a total massacre of a drug factory that had opened without permission of the local gang, the Blips (a merger of the Bloods a Crips). Of course the killers, also played by Key & Peele, instantly fall in love with Keanu when they massacre all the people. They track Keanu to get him back.

Meanwhile, while Clarence and Rell are out seeing a movie (which, for Clarence, is the height of "busting loose"), in a move remeniscent of The Big Lebowski (another buddy movie with twist), Rell's house is trashed by the Blips when they mistake Rell's place for his pot connection (who lives across the street). Rell's connection is behind on payments, so they trash "his" place as a warning. Of course, they immediately fall in love with Keanu and steal him for their boss -- the drug kingpin "Cheddar."

Rell uses his connection to find the strip club (of course) where Cheddar hangs. Rell and Clarence go to demand their cat back. Of course, they are mistaken for the psychotic killers "The Allentown Boys" who destroyed the rival drug lab in the opening scene. Cheddar offers to give "New Jack" (Keanu the Kitten, now adorably dressed in kitteh Gangsta garb) to our heroes as a sign of respect if they help him out.

Hi-Jinks, as they say, ensue.

What makes this is Key and Peele, as bi-racial black men who live "white" lives, playing their version of Gangsta to Cheddar's gang while Clarence also takes them through his team-building exercises and his class on corporate communication. (Among other things, he persuades them that George Michael is totally Gangsta.) Speaking as a white male theater go-er, it is both hilarious and painful to watch the racist tropes of modern drug movies on parade colliding with white corporate culture as seen through middle class black America. It is not lost that both Key and Peele feel at some level like they are 'supposed' to be all tough and Gangsta in conformance with popular culture, even while being sensibly repulsed at the very idea of running drugs and killing people and scared for their lives. They adopt "Gangsta" names for themselves and Clarence goes all "Luther, the anger translator" to Rell's supposed drug expertise and high tolerance for weed ("Now I gonna show you n---- how we smoke it in Allentown!")

The moview ends with the titanic gang war as all parties converge on poor little Keanu, who wants only to be reunited with his true love, Rell. Fans of the way Key & Peele subvert these scenarios on their TV show will not be disappointed as "shoot out at the Mexican drug lord's opulent mansion" becomes a demosntration of the value of corporate team building techniques and improved communication skills as taught by Clarence).

So I recommend Keanu. It is not high cinema by any means. It's basically a series of Key & Peele sketch comedies held together by a plot thread chased by an adorable kitten. But Key & Peele execute beautifully, and Keanu is adorable.

3.5 purrs out of 4.

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