Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.
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Key and Peele (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) have become household names as a result of their hilarious and trenchant brand of comedy exhibited on their Comedy Central television series (“Key and Peele”).
Their droll chemistry together is tighter and more magical than anything you’ve seen. Both comedians came from multi-racial families, and their innate connection shows in everything they do.
So it is that “Keanu” delivers laughs and sly social commentary with plenty of room set aside for kitten-cuteness from the title character. “I hear it means cool breeze in Hawaiian.”
You know going in that the movie is a riff on “John Wick,” the Keanu Reeves action film where he goes on a revenge/retrieval mission to get his stolen dog back from a band of ruthless gangsters. All of the bloodshed here is played up for its artificial nature. Characters are shot (apparently to death), only to pop up again later.
Rell (Peele) is a pot-smoking dude whose unseen girlfriend has abandoned. Rell’s soul-crushing heartbreak is quickly relieved when a kitten, formerly owned by a drug lord, shows up at his door. Rell’s best friend Clarence (Key) accurately describes his pal’s feline as the cutest kitten he’s ever seen. Indeed, slow-motion sequences of the freshly christened Keanu running across bodies and grass with equal ease prove the point.
At this film’s rollicking heart is a filmic discussion of code-switching, a topic that Key and Peele have addressed from various angles on their series. For the uninitiated, the practice of code-switching relates to “switching back and forth between two dialects or languages.” In this case the switching occurs between black slang and white-speak. You could call it “flipping” in the context of this film’s violence-prone action sequences that sometimes call for characters to run up walls and flip over backwards to land on their feet.
At one point Rell accuses Clarence of sounding like Richard Pryor mocking white people. Clarence replies that Rell sounds like John Ritter. Funny stuff. Screenwriters Alex Rubens and Jordan Peele don’t hold back. N-bombs fall like hale on a clear day. In order to survive Rell and Clarence have to prove their street cred, and talking the talk is essential to their cause.
“Keanu” doesn’t approach high cinematic art, but it is an enjoyable and entertaining movie that features a slew of fun performances from the likes of Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Darrell Britt-Gibson, and Will Forte. Naturally, the kitten steals the movie. All is as it should be.
Rated R. 98 mins.
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