Keanu – “Considered, clever characters and an accessible, playful storyline…”

In the UK, Keanu is all about the adorable cat. Recreating Oscar contenders in their marketing campaign earlier in the year, this witty publicity reached British websites as we all love cats. In America, on the other hand, the selling point is also Key and Peele.


They’re a comedy duo whose smart impressions and intelligent humour received huge acclaim stateside after a successful TV show on Comedy Central. You may have seen a few videos floating across your Facebook wall or Twitter feed. In one poignant (and still hilarious) segment, Key and Peele commentate on the school “season”, as if end of year results are like the premiership. Imagine a world whereby our children’s future is as valued and championed in society as football?

Keanu equally resonates through considered, clever characters and an accessible, playful storyline. Opening in a dingy, drug den in LA, the sun shines on men and women packaging drugs in their underwear. The doors are thrown open and the boss, in fear, tells us who has arrived: The Allentown Boys. Among the chaos, a gorgeous cat manages to zip in and out, leaping over dusty tables as bullets fly and knives are pulled. These brothers storm the place and only this tiny cat makes it out alive, appearing on the doorstep of Rell (Jordan Peele). Taking him in, and naming him Keanu, Rell has broken up from his girlfriend and turns to his married friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) for support. Clarence also has a challenge after his wife is away for a weekend. He needs to find out who he is – and stop being who he thinks everyone wants him to be. But their weekend plans are changed when Keanu is kidnapped by gun-toting members of an LA gang. Rell and Clarence need to drop their geekiness and become gangster to even be in with a chance of getting Keanu back home.


There is something refreshing about a strong comedy that doesn’t rely on a previous film for its success. Lately, between reboots and sequels like Zoolander 2 and Ghostbusters, originality is rare in the comedy field. Keanu changes that. Refusing to become a disposable tale with little substance, Keanu manages to play with stereotype, and our own assumptions, to great effect. As noted, Key and Peele often allude to bigger issues in their comedy. Whether it is a substitute teacher pronouncing names incorrectly or rap artists held to account for their lyricized crime exploits, the laughs aren’t cheap and prove a deft sense of observation.

In Keanu, crucially, we relate to both comedians. They’re just two regular dudes enjoying a weekend to let loose. Their tough-guy personas feel like imitations of known celebrities (and it’s funnier for that) as you cannot help but rattle your brain and figure out who they’re playing. Clarence has to justify, in his gangsta-manner, why George Michael is such a terrific musician. Rell has to hold in his horror as Anna Faris, in a hilarious cameo, plays with guns and snorts coke on her glass table. There’s also a great turn from Straight Outta Comptons Jason Mitchell, who is in a minor role, but shines when on-screen. Between the inevitable dream sequences and appearances by Method Man and Luis Guzman, Keanu is a fun film with laugh out-loud moments that, like the many skits Key and Peele have posted on YouTube, you’ll come back to time and time again.

This was originally written for Culturefly in July 2016

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