April 25, 2016

CINEMA | Key and Peele Meow Hard – 'Keanu'

Keegan-Michael Key Jordan Peele Peter Atencio | Keanu

Key & Peele sketch comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have struck out on their own in Keanu, a throwback to 1980-90s style action comedies, full of their trademark racial humour and wit. Centred on the wacky premise of getting back their stolen titular pet cat, Key and Peele find themselves in all sorts of comically dangerous situations that call for them to use their skills to assume more streetwise alter egos and fit into the Los Angeles drug trade.

Regular K&P director and collaborator Peter Atencio directs the film with his usual visual flair and technical style. If anything, Atencio's talent for constructing strong, stylistic visuals and imagery occasionally distracts and overshadows from the constantly forward moving criminal plot.

Peele and Alex Rubens' script is serviceable but lacks the usual magic and subversiveness present in many K&P sketches. The film feels most reminiscent of Let's Be Cops (also featuring Key) as an example of a very thin premise being propelled by comedic chemistry and charming performances. At a brisk ninety-eight minutes, Keanu unfortunately feels overlong like an overextended series of patch-worked sketches without a consistent tone searching for a suitable ending.

With all the weight of expectations from such a talented group, Keanu is still undeniably likeable and fun in most scenes and the pair clearly know how to, not only get laughs, but comment on the state of the African-American male psyche and stages of adulthood. Supporting players Method Man as the antagonist gang leader Cheddar, Will Forte as a pot dealing troublemaker, Anna Faris as a drugged out socialite, and standout Tiffany Haddish make this comic world all the more richer with an edge of danger.

Keanu is light fun with forays into bigger themes of racial identity, gender roles, and middle-class masculinity. It's most challenging effort is living up to Key & Peele's legacy of biting yet hilarious comedy. What's most evident is the genuine love of film and filmmaking from all creative parties who reference, pay homage, and lovingly tribute their cinematic influences all wrapped around one ridiculously adorable little kitty.

More | YVArcadeAV Club / ScreenCrushThe Playlist / Vulture

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