I was thinking…
…what a disparate reputation cats have. The ancient Egyptians treated them as sacred. Single women who own them are seen as pathetic spinsters. And, for some extremely odd reason, arch-villains prefer them as lap-riding pets.
Is it any wonder then that an entire film be made about how far someone will go to rescue a particularly adorable kitten from the clutches of such a villain?
Yes, it is. It’s a frickin’ cat, for Pete’s sake.
But that’s the entire premise of comedy duo Keegan-Micheal Key’s and Jordan Peele’s new film, Keanu.
Crushed by a recent break-up, Rell (Peele—Wanderlust), is about to spiral downward into a pit of despair when a little kitten shows up at his doorstep and brings a new light into his life.
Unbeknownst to Rell, however, the cat was the former gangster pet of a Los Angeles-based, Mexican drug dealer. Former pet, because the drug dealer and all his people were slaughtered by the infamous and mysterious killers known as the Allentown Brothers, Smoke and Oil Dresden (also played by Key and Peele).
Worse still, the Allentown Brothers have taken a shine to the little kitty, and will stop at nothing to reclaim him.
Rell’s cousin and best friend, Clarence (Key—Vacation), has just kissed his wife and daughter goodbye for a few days and treats himself to a movie with Rell before delving into his fun-filled weekend of paying bills.
When the pair returns from the film, they find Rell’s apartment has been ransacked, and the kitten–whom Rell had named Keanu–has been catnapped.
So dependent upon the cat, Rell launches into an investigation to find out who has absconded with his pet, and he drags Clarence along with him.
Gleaning information from Rell’s pot-dealing neighbor, Hulka (Will Forte—The Ridiculous 6), he and Clarence are led to a strip club–the headquarters of up-and-coming drug dealer, Cheddar (Method Man).
Finally aware of the danger they are in and saying anything to keep from getting shot, the pair somehow convince Cheddar and his goons that they are, in fact, the two killers known as the Allentown Brothers.
Cheddar, as it turns out, is in possession of Keanu and is willing to give the cat to Rell, should the ersatz Allentown Brothers be willing to do a couple jobs with his crew and show them ‘how it’s done in Allentown.’
Needless to say, the gangsta-talkin’, pastel-wearing, George Michael-listening cousins are way out of their element.
For anyone not spending half their income on pet food, the very premise of Keanu is–to put it lightly–absurd. Multiple grown men risking their lives for a kitten they have barely just met is ridiculous, of course. But the absurd premise is, after all, what makes it all work. The actions carried out by the same characters in similar situations would make for a passable action/comedy–forgettable at best, scoff-worthy at worst.
But the risking of life for a little furball, not to mention the decidedly large downgrade of machismo every time one of the men expresses a love for the minute meow machine, elevates an otherwise lackluster and predictable story line into an almost heartfelt but risible parody of the buddy action comedy genre.
Ashamed as I am to admit, there is a certain appeal to the titular tabby, as even I was not inclined to follow my normal instinct regarding any felis domesticus–and that is to throw the cat into a sack, throw the sack into a river and throw the river into the sun.
The irony is, that despite it being a so one-of-a-kind cat that no fewer than five men are willing to kill and die for, the character of Keanu was actually portrayed by seven or eight different “ca’ctors” and voiced–during a drug-induced trip of Clarence’s–by no less than Whoah-Worthy actor, Keanu Reeves himself.
Despite the cute factor and sprinkled with humor of a very Key and Peele variety, Keanu is still very much an R-rated movie. There are multiple gunfights, sprays of blood and the ever-pervasive presence of the n-word. But they all amount to what is a typical Key and Peele attempt to poke fun at things that make most people feel uncomfortable to talk about in mixed company–especially in such a racially divisive era.
The action scenes, of which there are more than a few, are interspersed well throughout, not allowing the pace to get dragged down and yet the comedy is not drowned in hails of unnecessary gunfire.
Something that most people would not expect from a film of this type, is the inclusion of an operatic-level musical score. Composer Steve Jablonsky (Ender’s Game, Transformers) opens the film with a requiem worthy of Carmina Burana composer Carl Orff. Although it fits the opening bloodbath sequence fantastically, when juxtaposed with the plot, it adds a new layer of absurdity to the film.
By the end, Keanu pulls off what only the rare film manages to: it makes us want to live out an equally memorable weekend for ourselves–even if that weekend does include a shootout at a drug cartel mansion and an abduction to a rundown Showbiz Pizza Place animatronic factory.
Ammo Dump rating: 7 out of 10 kitten-sized do-rags
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
Run time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)