Keanu

Posted on April 28, 2016 at 5:58 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Profanity: Very strong language including n-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs, and drug dealing
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action violence, many guns, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 29, 2016
Date Released to DVD: August 1, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01DYX9Y9M

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
I laughed so much and so hard at this movie that by the time it was over I had become of those Key and Peele show parking valets. I just wanted to stand in front of a hotel in my red vest saying over and over, “How about them Keys and Peeles, though! How ABOUT them Keys and Peeles!”

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, with a script co-written by Peele and directed by their series director Peter Atencio, have made one of the smartest and funniest comedies of the year, a film that works at every level from slapstick to sophisticated wit to social commentary and slam-bang action, with even a little romance.

Fans of the series will appreciate references like a trip to see a movie starring “Liam Neesons” but even those who have never heard of their Obama anger translator routine or their legendary East-West Bowl player names will immediately understand their characters and their situation.

Clarence (Key) is a happily married father who drives a minivan and listens to George Michael. His cousin Rell (Peele) is a pot-smoking slacker who is devastated following a break-up. But when he adopts an abandoned kitten his spirits lift, and he names it Keanu. When Keanu is stolen by the 17th Street Blips, a gang made up of gangsters who could not make it in the Bloods or the Crips, Clarence and Rel decide to rescue him. This leads to a strip club called HPV with a two-for-one lap dance special, run by drug dealer known as Cheddar (Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man). Clarence and Rell, trying to look tough, introduce themselves as Shark Tank and Tectonic. Clarence wonders how tough someone named Cheddar could be, but Rell points out that “You only name yourself something adorable if you can back it up.” When they explain to Cheddar that they are in the market for a “gangster pet,” Cheddar tells them they can have the kitten he has dubbed New Jack (complete with do-rag and gold chain) if they lead his gang on the delivery of an ultra-potent new drug. A series of encounters, escalating in peril, violence, and hilarity. It would be wrong to spoil more, so I will leave it at this: there is a very funny surprise guest star and Clarence’s professional team-building skills come in handy.

Key and Peele, both biracial, have always found comedy/commentary gold in their ability to reflect on race and culture. By casting themselves as highly and somewhat self-consciously assimilated black men who assume the media-created image of violent black drug dealers, they have added some sharp meta-commentary to a classic set up: fish-out-of-water, normal characters drawn into abnormal circumstances. Rell’s own weed dealer, played by SNL alum Will Forte, is a white man who is also taking on a stereotyped black persona, including cornrows. Clarence, who tries to order a white wine spritzer in the strip club and who tells Rell he sounds like John Ritter, swings into what he thinks is gangster mode when Chedder’s hostile n-word-spouting henchmen approach him. The transformation is wildly funny, both the specificity of it, and the way it fits so seamlessly into our own media-created notion of that archtype and the porous aspects of his new persona as the “real” Clarence keeps peeking out. Clarence and Rell are as innocent and helpless as the adorable kitty in the midst of druglord shoot-outs. Key and Peele are pretty adorable, too, in a gangster pet sort of way.

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and violence, many guns, characters injured and killed, drugs and drug dealing, sexual references and nudity, strip club, and very strong and crude language including the n-word.

Family discussion: Where did Rel and Clarence get their ideas of how to behave with the Blips? How did Clarence’s team building training come in handy?

If you like this, try: the Key and Peele television series, “Date Night,” and “Analyze This”

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Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Race and Diversity

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