When news broke out that the show Key and Peele was ending, I was saddened. I didn’t watch the show religiously, but I caught many of their sketches and usually cried from laughter. That was until they announced they were going to keep working together in other forms. The two have had great cameos, together and separate, in other films and TV (their bit in the first season of Fargo was excellent), but together was where they shined (again, Fargo. Watch it if you haven’t). Then the premise for Keanu was released, and I was sold.
Keanu is a simple story. The film begins with a shoot-out where the titular cat, Keanu (A.K.A. New Jack), flees from an attack in a church that doubles as drug lab (Or vice-versa. The film doesn’t necessarily clarify). Keanu escapes the attack and runs away. After, we meet Rell (Jordan Peele) who very recently was broken up with. His cousin, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), decides to come check up on him but, before he arrives, Keanu appears at the door to save Rell.
If you’ve seen the trailers (and I’m assuming most people have, because it’s playing everywhere), you’re aware of what happens next. Keanu gets stolen and Clarence and Rell go to find the new cat, and by doing so, they have to impersonate gang members. All this for one cat.
The film reminds me of War Horse, in that the film follows the horse’s adventure as ownership changes, always interested with the current owner. All the chaos, destruction, and death (and there is a substantial amount for a comedy) is caused because of this one cat. As ownership changes for the cat, we get new characters, and new chaos, and new deaths. It’s actually both entirely absurd and incredibly sweet because, at the core, it’s about the love for this cat which all the owners (except for the original) only have the for a very short amount of time. Rell owns the cat for two weeks before it’s taken, and when Rell finds out, we are given the most cinematic and visually appealing scene with the downpouring rain, thunder in the background, and Rell screaming towards the sky.
But again, this leads to a balance of both absurdity and sweetness over all of this being related to the cat. The film tends to depend on whether you love cats. The film constantly cuts back to reaction shots of the cat (which was always adorable, but that didn’t need to really be depicted). The audience spent most of the film either laughing or saying “aw” out loud. At one point, someone next to me said “It’s so cute, I want to die.” The film seems to almost depend on the cat factor, and maybe that’s where it falls for the viewers.
Recently, it was “Alien Day” (4/26, based off the moon they visit in both Alien & Aliens, LV-426) and there’s been a huge debate about which film is better, Alien or Aliens (this reviewer believes it’s Alien). A question to help decide is typically whether the viewer’s preferred genre is horror or action. To me, maybe this film works on whether you’re a cat or a dog person. I love cats, and I’ve had many, but my two dogs have meant the world to me. So, when they cut to the cat at the beginning, I loved it. When they cut to Keanu near the end? Less enthralled.
The comedy, as you would expect, works – until it doesn’t. Like most comedy films these days, there are jokes that land and jokes that don’t, but the people behind the script, Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens (more Community love), know not to hold on to any joke and to keep shooting away. I laughed consistently throughout and enjoyed my time in the theatre. Was it groundbreaking? No, but it didn’t need to be. It’s a film that proves how funny Key and Peele truly are, and the world will need more of their work soon.